The Complete Nonprofit Marketing Guide [Tips + Templates]

By Jeilan Devanesan, Jul 02, 2020

Nonprofit Marketing Blog Header

The majority of nonprofits are small organizations, led mainly by volunteers operating on an annual budget of $500,000 or less. 

When it comes to marketing, nonprofits have to do a lot with very little. 

The good news is that effective marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, and doesn’t require a team of marketing professionals to work.

If you’re organized, plan ahead, and really pay attention to how your marketing strategies perform–you can get a lot out of the work you put in.

This nonprofit marketing guide is here to help you do just that. 

I’m going to show you how to put together a sound nonprofit marketing plan and master a number of nonprofit marketing strategies to support your cause and organization. This guide includes the templates you need every step of the way to communicate your plans, record your strategies, and create your marketing content. 

Believe me, once you get through this post, you’ll be able to knock your marketing goals out of the park. If you want to dive right in, click on the links to jump ahead. 

 

Why do nonprofits need marketing?

Nonprofit Marketing Why

Many organizations don’t track the impact of their marketing activities closely. This leads to people wondering what value there even is in marketing. Done properly and tracked properly, marketing can prove to be a huge source of growth for an organization, especially nonprofits. 

Nonprofit marketing raises awareness of your brand and mission 

Members of your community, people across the country, and audiences online all need to understand who you are and the type of work you do. Raising awareness through marketing can help your nonprofit brand become recognizable, and your mission loud and clear. 

Nonprofit marketing raises funds to support your cause 

A business needs to generate revenue by selling products or services. Your nonprofit organization needs to fundraise to support a cause. That means promoting your solution to an issue effectively. 

Nonprofit marketing increases your number of donors 

When you have a pool of long-term donors, you don’t need to fundraise as aggressively throughout the year to hit your fundraising goals. Marketing helps you win over new donors, convert existing donors into long-term ones, and secure major brands as partners.

Nonprofit marketing recruits volunteers for your organization 

You nonprofit won’t grow from donations alone. You need dedicated, passionate volunteers who are willing to do the work to support your mission. Marketing can encourage those who want to make a difference in their community, to volunteer for your organization. 

Nonprofit marketing promotes your programs for the community 

The people you wish to help may not know your organization exists, or that it provides programs to help them. You need to connect with these people, get yourself in front of them, and show them exactly what they can achieve with your help. 

There are plenty of reasons why marketing is essential to the growth and success of a nonprofit. But, like I mentioned earlier, it’s not enough to just have marketing activities in place. You need to record and track what you’re doing and measure whether it’s working. That means getting organized. 

 

Getting started with nonprofit marketing

When it comes to nonprofit marketing, a big part of it is creating and managing different kinds of compelling content. But first, you need to do the following:

1. Create a nonprofit marketing plan

2. Choose your nonprofit marketing strategies

You need to create a plan, set goals, identify a strategy or set of strategies to achieve those goals, and track the results. If you don’t have a plan or dedicated strategies in place, you’ll never learn what works best for your organization, and you’ll never grow. 

What is a nonprofit marketing plan?

A nonprofit marketing plan is a strategic roadmap to help grow your nonprofit organization through the use of various marketing strategies. Similar to a business marketing plan, a nonprofit marketing plan highlights your chosen marketing strategies, the audiences you’re focusing on, your goals and desired outcomes, and much more. 

How you present your marketing plan is important. You’re communicating a lot of information to executives and team members, alike. They need to read it, understand it, and grasp exactly what it’s all about. That means it has to be interesting and engaging enough to keep their attention. 

Concise content and professional design can do that for you.

Promotional Marketing Plan Template


 

You’ll notice right away that each page has a minimal amount of text, and emphasizes visuals. The vibrant color palette is eye-catching, and the icons help to break up and organize information in an organized manner.

Content Marketing Plan Template


 

This marketing plan template has a very bold and modern design. While there’s more text than the previous template, the changing layouts and use of icons still help to keep the document engaging. 

In terms of scope, your nonprofit marketing plan can focus on the entire organization’s marketing activities, or a single marketing channel like social media. You can also create one for the quarter, or for the entire year.

Nonprofit Social Media Marketing Plan


 

Emphasize your most important information. Three key metrics take up half an entire page, making them jump right out readers. These are important numbers to remember, since they may be baselines to beat or targets to hit. 

Large sections of text are also well-balanced by quality stock photos in the template. You can use our stock photo library to get all sorts of high-quality shots. Plus, you can work any image into your design by using a color overlay to mute the original colors. 

A typical nonprofit marketing plan has the eight following sections: 

  • A simple executive summary
  • Clear marketing goals
  • Detailed donor personas
  • Competitor research
  • Accurate baselines & metrics
  • An actionable marketing strategy
  • Tracking and reporting guidelines
  • A clear, professional design that is easy to understand

These are the core sections of any marketing plan. They inform and shape each other. Skipping a section can leave detrimental holes in your marketing approaches. While it may take a bit of time to put together, the effort will always be rewarded. 

Read More: Need help creating a strong, bulletproof marketing plan? Check out our comprehensive marketing plan guide for a step-by-step breakdown. 

Want to get started on your marketing plan right now? Check out our marketing plan templates to create your own. 


 

Nonprofit marketing plan best practices

Marketing plan executive summaries

Nonprofit Marketing Plan Executive Summary Example

When it comes to executive summaries, keep things simple and concise. Speak to exactly what your organization’s mission is all about, and the unique solution your organization puts forward. It doesn’t need to be more than two or three paragraphs, like so.

Ideal donor persona guides

Nonprofit Donor Guide Example


 

Your ideal donor persona is also something that shouldn’t be ignored. Understanding your audience is the foundation of all your marketing efforts.

If you already have a sizable pool of existing donors, learn about them. Do they share common interests or traits? More importantly, understand exactly why they care about your nonprofit. If you don’t have a database with information about them, consider sending out a survey! 

If you’re just getting started and don’t have very many donors, then imagine your ideal donor persona. Consider your cause, and who would want to support it. What would their age range and occupation be? What is their average income? What are they passionate about? 

These are the types of details that can help position your brand and copywriting across channels. Plus, knowing who the right people are helps you target your ads and other content more effectively. 

Read More: 20+ Persona Examples, Templates and Tips For Targeted Decision-Making

Tracking and reporting guidelines

Tracking and Report Metrics

Lastly, data and marketing go hand in hand. Be very clear about what kinds of performance metrics you’re tracking, where you’re tracking them from, and how often. If you can’t pin down how many visitors are converting on a landing page, or how much real engagement your latest infographic is getting, you won’t know what’s working and what’s not. Document your reporting standards so that anyone can follow the data. 

 

What is a nonprofit marketing strategy?

Marketing Strategies 2

A nonprofit marketing strategy is a marketing channel that you choose to achieve a specific marketing goal. There are many marketing strategies out there, but with limited resources and staff, you want to focus on the most accessible and effective marketing strategies available to you. 

Here are some of the best nonprofit marketing strategies you can start using today:

  1. Nonprofit infographics and content marketing
  2. Nonprofit social media marketing
  3. Nonprofit print marketing
  4. Nonprofit email marketing
  5. Nonprofit presentations and pitching

1. Nonprofit infographics and content marketing

Statistic Infographic Nonprofit Marketing

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Organizations are doubling down on content marketing. You don’t want to get left behind. So where do you start?

Infographics are still some of the most engaging, most shared pieces of content online today. Nonprofit infographics are an effective content marketing tool for a number of reasons. 

  • Infographics are effective storytelling devices
  • Infographics explain complex topics 
  • Infographics empower your audience to act
  • Infographics break down processes
  • Infographics visualize important data and statistics
  • Infographics are easy to remember
  • Infographics are easy to design

Many major nonprofit organizations rely on nonprofit infographics to talk about their mission, highlight their cause, promote their campaigns and identify solutions. These are visual storytelling devices that spark emotional reactions and motivate people to act. 

Informational infographic

The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) created an infographic on sea turtles. It’s simple, but effective. It conveys the unique qualities of different sea turtle species, the different human activities that endanger them, and the ways you can help starting today.

Sea Turtle Infographic_WWF

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The visuals draw you in, the data evokes an emotional response through shock, and the solution is accessible to the average person.

Statistical infographic

Another infographic, from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), promotes ocean conservation. It’s a terrific design, and one of my personal favorites!

Ocean conservation Infographic

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I love the funky color palette, the illustrated icons, and the three-panel layout. It’s packed with information, but very easy to read. It raises awareness around the IUCN’s mission, and shows how people can support it without having to donate or volunteer. 

Comparison infographic

This nonprofit infographic, from the Bill Gates Foundation, is always worth mentioning. With a unique angle, and the use of data, this simple infographic is a tremendous eye-opener.

World's Deadliest Animals Infographic

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This infographic is a great example of how you can use data to really unpack a story and drive awareness. The epidemic of malaria gets reframed in a way that is staggering, giving people something to think about. 

You can use infographics to break down a series of data sets visually. Through the use of a simple color palette and icons, relevant statistics are visualized. It’s a breeze to scan through. The calls-to-action provide choices which may resonate differently with different people.

Create a nonprofit infographic template

Water Pollution Infographic Template


 

You can also design infographics to break down the impact of your organization’s work. This nonprofit infographic template is a great example, where the organization demonstrates how it has made a difference. It validates the work of the nonprofit. The data tells the story, and the call-to-action at the end is very justified. 

Create an impact report infographic 

Poverty Reduction Impact Report Infographic Template


 

This impact report nonprofit infographic is another approach to highlighting your organization’s impact. The massive figures shared convey the scale of the nonprofit’s work. The difference it makes is clear to anyone. For potential donors wondering where they should invest their dollar, these kinds of statistics are very compelling and reassuring. 

Simple impact report infographic

Nutrition Report Infographic Template


 

Once you’ve created your infographic, don’t just share them on social media and call it a day. Promote them!

Take the time to craft an infographic outreach process in order to secure more shares, mentions and links for your content. It can take a bit more time, but the more people who know about your organization, the closer you get to hitting your goals. 


 

2. Nonprofit social media marketing

Nonprofit social media marketing is a great way to connect with your online audience. Social media platforms help you highlight the work your organization does, but also the people that power your organization, and the people your organization lifts up.  

Platforms like Instagram are great for creating informative, in-depth educational content. You can create your own Instagram carousel post using templates like this one. With a vibrant, engaging design, and the use of icons, you can explain an important topic very simply. 

Create a carousel post

Good Ally Instagram Carousel Template


 

Here’s another informative Instagram carousel template you can quickly customize. With a simple color palette and helpful icons, the content is clear and easy to retain. 

Mental Health Crisis Instagram carousel template


 

Create a Simple Facebook Post

National Pet Day Facebook Post Template


 

Here’s a nonprofit Facebook template that you can customize in seconds. Upload your own photo and change the caption. Be sure to add your nonprofit’s logo and you’re set!

ACLU Storytelling Post IG

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This post from the ACLU is part of a series, where the audience learns about the staff that lead the ACLU. It’s a great way to strengthen their brand, position their own staff as leaders in the space, and drive genuine engagement with their audience. And, it’s just a photo! 

What makes this a great example of social media marketing done right, is how it drives conversation. ACLU’s online followers, from across the country, can pose questions to Andre about anything! Questions related to working from home to civil rights legislation are game. 

Nonprofit Twitter Example

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This is a neat post from the YMCA, promoting physical activity and positive mental health with an exercise video. The post just shares a clip, but people can watch the whole thing on YouTube. It’s a great way to direct your audience from one platform to another, and practical considering how many organizations are shifting to video content during the pandemic.

Girls Inc Instagram Post

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I really like this post from Girls Inc. It’s well branded through the use of color, style, icon placement and layout. The design is simple and can be easily repurposed for other testimonials and quotes. A non-designer could make a few edits for a completely new post. 

More importantly, the post demonstrates the organization’s continued commitment to its mission. It reaffirms to online followers that their donated dollars and volunteer hours are being put to great use. 

With social media marketing, you want to have templates for every platform you use, with consistent designs, and a tool to help you schedule content in advance. This way your content is always on brand and easily recognizable. 


 

4. Nonprofit print marketing

Print marketing is not going anywhere for a long time. Especially for organizations that connect with their community in person, print marketing collateral is essential. 

Nonprofit flyers, nonprofit posters, and nonprofit brochures are all staple print marketing materials that help share information about your organization, its work, its services and upcoming events. Promote local fundraisers, raise awareness around your cause, recruit volunteers and more with a variety of printed material. 

Create nonprofit webinar event flyers

A nonprofit flyer is super handy for local marketing, raising awareness throughout the neighborhood, and sharing over social media. Even if you don’t plan on printing off physical flyers, you can use a flyer template layout to guide your design. 

Nonprofit Webinar Event Flyer Template


 

In this webinar event flyer, there’s a section for everything you need! Event details, event background and speaker information are all packaged neatly into a sharp, modern design. Promote your own upcoming event by swapping out text, choosing new icons from our icon library, and uploading professional headshots of the event speakers.

Create nonprofit recruitment flyers

Nonprofit Event Flyer Template


 

An eye-catching flyer design doesn’t have to be complicated. Find an inspiring stock-photo from our stock photo library to use as your background. Then use a color palette that complements the tones in the image you used. 

Nonprofit Event Flyer Template_Annotated

Notice how the tones of teal applied to the template design, also appear in the stock photo itself. This is a neat trick that helps tie your visuals together!

Create nonprofit event flyers

Nonprofit Blood Drive Event Flyer Template


 

You may not always find the right stock photo. When you’ve found the perfect stock photo, you might not nail down a suitable color palette. It might feel complicated to create a professional-looking flyer. 

When that happens, you can create a great visual by just using icons. Venngage has a vast icon library of over 10,000 unique icons with varying styles. This blood drive flyer template uses simple, illustrated icons to communicate its central theme and message. 

With your completed flyer or brochure design, you’re ready to get it printed off. Opt for online printing to save yourself time, money and get a preview of what your printed materials will look like.


 

Get professional nonprofit posters

Printed flyers are typically letter-sized and great for handing out. But printed posters come in all shapes and sizes. Posters are great for sharing in public, open spaces because their size makes them readable from a distance. 

Just take a look at this stunning nonprofit event poster.

Nonprofit Event Poster Template


 

The bold shades of pink and heavyset font jump right out at you. The Information about the event is also organized neatly throughout and easy to change up. Take note of the amount of empty space left throughout the poster, too. Negative space in design is essential, it prevents your content from looking cluttered and difficult to read.

Create nonprofit event posters

Cat Adoption Nonprofit Event Poster Template


 

This nonprofit event poster template makes use of a high-resolution stock photo as the background. The black and white background image creates a balanced contrast with the solid color blocks and text, making both stand out.

You’ll also notice the unique choice of fonts. When it comes to applying different style fonts, be conservative. A design best-practice is to never use more than two to three fonts in one visual. Using one font style that really stands out is a great way to draw attention to your text.

Create nonprofit program posters

Nonprofit Training Program Poster Template


 

Whether you print off your posters, share them on social media, or send them out as part of an email newsletter, don’t be afraid to include a URL. Even if it’s not clickable, a simple URL can be typed up into a browser and lead people to your page. Depending on how people view your nonprofit poster, they may not be able to click on a link you’ve shared elsewhere. 


 

Attractive nonprofit brochures

Nonprofit brochures are great for sharing in-depth information on your cause, a large-scale event, a particular campaign, and much more. With a typical nonprofit trifold brochure layout, you can easily organize your information to include brand information, contact information and details on a topic.

Empowerment Nonprofit Brochure Template


 

This nonprofit brochure is great for sharing your nonprofit’s cause. Different sections detail the concept behind the nonprofit, its importance, how to get involved and more. The vibrant icon art makes it stand out, without a need for stock photos or your own images. Plus, testimonials from individuals help push the message of empowerment and success, validating the work your organization does.

Informational nonprofit brochures

Animal Community Nonprofit Brochure Template


 

The use of stock photos in a nonprofit brochure design helps break up chunks of text. This template has a professional and polished look, but is packed with information that’s easy to scan. It also has placeholders for your nonprofit brand’s logo and contact information – all you need to do is swap the content!

Creative nonprofit brochures

Animal Rescue Nonprofit Tri Fold Brochure Template


 

Your nonprofit brochure can also combine actual stock photos with illustrated icons for a playful, lighthearted brochure design. The nonprofit brochure template’s white background allows for a variety of colors to come together without clashing. You’ll notice the way icons are paired with actual photos too for an added splash of humor. To customize it, swap in your own photos and icons for a similar look and feel.


 

Most marketers need to create marketing content for multiple channels. An advantage to print marketing is that you can easily repurpose your content for other channels, like social media and email. A significant number of marketers struggle to do that efficiently.

Nonprofit marketing repurposing statistic

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Becoming a master at content repurposing can be your marketing edge when it comes to content creation. 

5. Nonprofit Email Newsletters

Every so often, there’s a marketing expert that claims email marketing is dead. Please, don’t pay attention to them. In a few years, we can expect to have over 4 billion email users worldwide. That’s more than half the world using email to communicate on a regular basis. 

Sending out an email newsletter consistently is a way to keep your subscribers (donors and community members alike) informed and up to date. Creating stunning, professional newsletters is a great way to get people’s attention, and convey information. 

Announcement email newsletters

For example, many nonprofits have recently shifted in-person programs to online platforms. Emailing their community members is an effective way to inform them of that change and how to access materials.

Nonprofit Email Newsletter Template


 

Event marketing newsletters

You can also promote events and webinars to drive registrations over email. Take a look at this nonprofit newsletter, using dark colors and trendy icons for a clean and professional look.

nonprofit webinar newsletter email template


 

If you’re promoting a webinar or other kind of event, the most important detail is when the webinar takes place. None of the other information matters to readers if they can’t attend it to begin with, after all. Note the way this template uses large, vibrant text to provide the date and time of the webinar. 

You also don’t want to forget a call-to-action button in these types of emails! Tell people to register or sign up, and how to do it. The moment they’re unsure of what step to take next, they’ll lose interest. 

When it comes to writing engaging email copy, I’ve found that I’m more receptive to casual, friendly tones. As a nonprofit, you don’t need to adopt the typical, corporate approach to email correspondence so many other organizations seem to always do. 

Personally, I like St. Baldrick’s approach to writing emails. 

Introduction Email Newsletters

St. Baldrick's Opening Email

That’s their first email to new subscribers. The language isn’t formal, which makes it easy to read. The child-like font style is quirky, but also on brand since they fund research for kids with cancer. 

You can also stick to completely plain text emails that aren’t accompanied by any visuals. However, without visuals, you need very compelling email copy to hold your audience’s attention. Here’s an example of one that works. 

Cancer Foundation Email

The National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) sent me this plain text email describing the journey of “Doris”–a lady who needed her annual mammogram but could not afford one. 

She eventually got in touch with NBCF, who then connected her to a facility that’s partnered with them to get her mammogram for free! That’s the type of success story that reminds donors and volunteers alike how their contributions make a real change.  

When it comes to email newsletter design, here is no right or wrong. Get as creative as you like. You can even make use of infographics, visualize interesting data and statistics, apply vibrant color palettes, and so much more. 

Read More: To learn more about crafting your best email newsletters, check out our email newsletter design tips and templates post.

3. Nonprofit presentations and pitching

As your community outreach ramps up, expect to present on your nonprofit’s behalf at a number of events. These are golden opportunities to rally support, raise awareness, drive memberships and bump up donor dollars. 

In our presentation design study, we found the most common challenge for speakers presenting is summarizing complex information. They have a lot of information to share, but struggle with condensing it or breaking it up over multiple slides. 

Our Key Tip: Don’t set a limit to the number of presentation slides in your deck. Present information at the pace that suits you and your audience. 

Nothing convinces people more of something than data. To highlight how important an issue is, or how impactful your work has been, let data tell the story. But you do need to present your data clearly, to have an effect.  

Community Services Nonprofit Presentation

Nonprofit Presentation Template


 

When it comes to sharing important figures, don’t use more than one or two charts in a slide.  This lets you focus on very specific data sets and explore them in detail. It helps your audience digest the information before the next slide, too. 

As for individual points on the slides, you’ll see that they are all paired with vibrant icons in the template. This is a neat little trick that makes it easier for your audience to group points and remember them well after the presentation. 

Nonprofit Impact Report Presentation

Nonprofit Annual Report Presentation


 

Rather than use icons, you can also use stock photos to create engaging background visuals. Color overlays help you mute the colors of any background photo you decide to use. This nonprofit presentation template uses a gray color overlay so that the vibrant tones don’t clash, but stand out. 

Mental Health Nonprofit Presentation

Nonprofit Mental Health Presentation Template


 

You don’t need to repeat your presentation layout. In fact, having several variations to your slide layouts, like in this nonprofit presentation template, renews your audience’s attention. Uniformity is great, but if the seemingly same slide appears over and over again, you’ll lose your crowd. 


 

Depending on whom you’re presenting to, consider including a theory of change diagram in your slides. Theory of change diagrams are a universal mode of explaining what your nonprofit organization does and will accomplish in the future. 

Nonprofit Theory of Change

Theory of Change Template


 

This theory of change template follows a simple layout that helps to break down your organization’s mission and vision for the future. Whether you’re presenting to government bodies, corporate partners, or other organizations, a theory of change diagram is great to have in your presentation toolkit. 

Theory of change diagrams also work as standalone documents, or inserts in printed nonprofit proposals and other forms of content. 

Consider secondary marketing strategies like SMS marketing and mobile fundraising to give your campaigns an added boost.

 

Setting nonprofit marketing goals

For every marketing channel you use, you need to have specific goals in mind. With a small team, it may seem overwhelming to track metrics, to analyze incoming data, and constantly iterate on processes. 

However, as you improve the performance of your nonprofit marketing channels, you learn what works best and where to really focus your energies. 

To make sure you’re setting meaningful goals, use the SMART framework.

Smart Goals Color

Specific 

Answer the five W’s. This will help you determine your target audience, time frame and end goal.

Measurable

Determine the metrics you want to measure. If it’s a long-term project, set milestones for specific time frames. This way you’ll know whether or not you’re on track.

Achievable

Make sure your goals are within reach. If you’re too ambitious, your team’s motivation will suffer and you can’t truly validate what works. But if the goals are too easy, you fall short of your organization’s potential. 

Relevant

Make sure your goals align with your nonprofit’s mission and objectives. At the end of the day, don’t pursue something if it won’t directly benefit your organization. Make sure you set different goals for different types of marketing. Social media goals will be different to your nonprofit website goals, for example.

Time-based

You need to set deadlines that are realistic, or else you can’t measure the impact of your marketing efforts. 

Now you’re ready to get started! Be patient with your planning process and focus one or two marketing strategies first. As you discover what’s working, you’ll develop best practices for your nonprofit organization. These can be added to a marketing playbook and applied to different strategies and spaces as your organization grows! 

 

Key Takeaways

Nonprofit marketing doesn’t need to be costly, technical or otherwise inaccessible for your organization. With a clear and focused approach, any nonprofit organization can be highly successful with its nonprofit marketing. 

Create a well-thought-out nonprofit marketing plan. This is where you set out a clear vision for what your nonprofit marketing should accomplish, who your audience is, and how you’ll reach them. A nonprofit marketing plan helps to align your entire team behind a specific set of goals. 

Choose a your nonprofit marketing strategies. Choose strategies that are easiest for your organization to implement, set specific goals and metrics to track, and be attentive to how your marketing strategies perform. You don’t want to run on autopilot and hope for the best. Instead, constantly pivot your copywriting and design to improve the impact of your marketing strategies. 

Track and report on how your marketing strategies perform. Take stock of what works best and what doesn’t so that as an organization, everyone understands where to focus their attention the most. 

For more nonprofit marketing resources and templates, check out any of these posts: 

55+ Annual Report Design Templates, Inspirational Examples & Tips
6 Types of Nonprofit Infographics to Boost Your Campaigns
What is Data Visualization?
50+ Infographic Ideas, Examples & Templates

About Jeilan Devanesan

Jeilan's a copywriter at Venngage. He enjoys reporting on design trends, tips and hacks. He also enjoys hitting the gym, creative writing and binging on books. You can find him on LinkedIn.