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The Evolution of Search: From SEO to Generative Engine Optimization for Nonprofits - A 10-Step Implementation Guide

Authors: Nathan Chappell, MBA, MNA, CFRE, and Brittany N. Shaff, bCRE, CFRE, bring expertise in Generative Engine Optimization for nonprofits.
Authors: Nathan Chappell and Brittany N. Shaff

Together, Nathan Chappell, MBA, MNA, CFRE, and Brittany N. Shaff, bCRE, CFRE, bring a wealth of expertise and experience to this essential discussion. Nathan, Co-Founder of Fundraising.AI and Senior Vice President at DonorSearch AI, has been at the forefront of integrating Artificial Intelligence into philanthropy. His co-authorship of the book "Generosity Crisis, the Case for Radical Connection to Solve Humanity's Greatest Challenges" underscores his deep understanding of the intersection between technology and philanthropy. As founder and CEO of the Shaff Fundraising Group, Brittany boasts two decades of experience in strategic fundraising, marketing, and analytics across both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Their collaboration offers a comprehensive perspective on navigating the dynamic landscape of philanthropy and digital engagement, providing valuable insights for nonprofits seeking success in this evolving terrain of AI, fundraising, and marketing.


In the bustling digital landscape where nonprofits vie for attention, the journey from basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to the dynamic realm of Generative Engine Optimization (GEO) marks a profound shift in how organizations engage with their audience. Picture this: a small nonprofit dedicated to environmental conservation struggles to make its voice heard amid the cacophony of online content. With traditional SEO tactics, they optimize keywords and meta tags, hoping to climb the search engine ranks. However, optimization isn't enough to cut through the noise as the digital sphere evolves.

Enter the Search Generative Experience (SGE) era and its pinnacle, Generative Engine Optimization (GEO). This paradigm shift transcends the relatively straightforward static strategies of SEO, focusing instead on crafting immersive, user-centric experiences that not only attract but actively engage audiences. SGE emphasizes the importance of user experience and context, understanding that a seamless journey from search query to conversion is paramount in today's digital landscape.

Understanding the Shift: SEO vs. GEO

While SEO primarily focuses on optimizing content and technical aspects to improve search engine rankings, GEO takes a holistic approach, prioritizing user experience, personalization, and dynamic content creation. Unlike SEO, which often relies on static keyword optimization, GEO leverages real-time data and user insights to tailor content and experiences for maximum impact.

Why Nonprofits Should Embrace GEO

For nonprofits, the ultimate goal extends beyond just raising funds; it encompasses building brand awareness, fostering community engagement, and mobilizing support for their cause. Generative Engine Optimization (GEO) offers a multifaceted approach that aligns perfectly with these objectives, providing nonprofits with a powerful toolkit to elevate their online presence, drive donations, recruit volunteers, and increase credibility.

The adoption of GEO has seen remarkable results across various sectors. In a 19-page research study entitled “GEO: Generative Engine Optimization,” researchers from Princeton University, Georgia Tech, IIT Delhi, and the Allen Institute for AI highlight how GEO aims to help content creators improve the visibility of their content in the responses generated by AI-driven search engines.

According to the study, GEO approaches have witnessed a 30-40% improvement in visibility compared to the SEO baseline approaches.

While there are a multitude of GEO platforms on the market, with more being launched each week, PerplexityAi, Gemini (formerly Bard), Claude, Bing, and ChatGPT, collectively have quickly made an outsized impact on traditional SEO.

According to Similar Web, since its release on November 30, 2023, ChatGPT has quickly grown to become the #23 most visited site on the web. 

1. Amplifying Brand Awareness In today's crowded digital landscape, standing out is paramount for nonprofits seeking to amplify their brand and mission. GEO goes beyond traditional SEO tactics by prioritizing user experience, personalization, and dynamic content creation. By crafting compelling narratives and immersive experiences that resonate with their audience, nonprofits can leave a lasting impression and cultivate brand advocates who are passionate about their cause.

2. Driving Online Donations The online donation landscape is rapidly evolving, with more donors preferring to contribute through digital channels. With GEO, nonprofits can optimize their website and donation process to create seamless and intuitive experiences for donors. By leveraging personalization techniques and dynamic content, organizations can tailor their fundraising campaigns to individual preferences and motivations, leading to higher conversion rates and increased donations.

3. Acquiring More Volunteers Volunteers are the lifeblood of many nonprofits, providing crucial support for day-to-day operations and initiatives. GEO can play a pivotal role in attracting and recruiting volunteers by showcasing the impact of their work and the meaningful opportunities available. By creating engaging content and interactive experiences highlighting the volunteer experience, nonprofits can inspire individuals to get involved and make a difference in their communities.

4. Enhancing User Engagement At the heart of GEO lies a deep understanding of user behavior and preferences. By analyzing data and insights, nonprofits can tailor their content and experiences to meet the needs and expectations of their audience. From personalized donation journeys to interactive storytelling campaigns, GEO enables organizations to create immersive experiences that captivate and compel users, driving higher engagement and retention rates.

5. Building Sustainable Relationships

Ultimately, GEO is more than just site transactions; it's about forging meaningful connections with supporters and stakeholders.

"By adopting a holistic approach to online engagement, nonprofits can cultivate lasting relationships built on trust, transparency, and shared values." -Brittany Shaff.

Whether through personalized communications, exclusive content, or interactive experiences, GEO empowers organizations to nurture a community of passionate advocates committed to driving positive change.

6. Increasing Credibility

In the complex web of online information, credibility stands as a cornerstone for nonprofits aiming to establish trust and authority. GEO enhances nonprofits' credibility by ensuring that their content is visible but also authoritative, contextually relevant, and trustworthy. Through strategies like incorporating verified data, showcasing endorsements from reputable entities, and providing transparent and accurate reporting on the use of funds, nonprofits can solidify their reputation as reliable and impactful organizations.

"By systematically optimizing content to meet these standards, GEO can help nonprofits build a trustworthy brand that appeals to donors, volunteers, and stakeholders alike." -Nathan Chappell.

Similarities between SEO and GEO

  • Visibility and Reach: Both SEO and GEO aim to enhance the visibility of nonprofit websites and content on search engine results pages (SERPs), thus increasing their reach to potential supporters, donors, and beneficiaries.

  • Content Optimization: Both strategies involve optimizing content to align with the interests, needs, and search queries of the target audience. Whether it's through keyword research, metadata optimization, or generating relevant and engaging content, the goal is to attract and retain audience attention.

  • User Experience (UX): Both SEO and GEO emphasize providing a seamless and user-friendly experience for website visitors. Factors such as site speed, mobile responsiveness, and intuitive navigation are essential for enhancing user experience, which in turn can positively impact search engine rankings.

GEO and SEO Differences

Whether you directly manage your nonprofit website, you and your team directly impact website content and, thus, SEO and GEO results. As everyone within the organization influences the digital footprint of the organization, your organization is shaped by the engagement of the footprint. Regardless of our role, it is vital to understand the differences between GEO and traditional SEO. The differences between GEO and traditional SEO are foundationally significant, so let’s dive into a quick comparison:

  • Focus of Optimization

    • Traditional SEO: Targets keyword density, backlinks, and meta information to improve rankings on traditional search engines like Google.

    • GEO: Concentrates on content quality, relevance, and the ability to answer queries directly and succinctly, optimizing for AI-driven generative search engines.

  • Keyword Strategy

    • Traditional SEO: Emphasizes keyword research and placement to match user searches.

    • GEO: Leverages natural language processing to understand query context, reducing the emphasis on specific keywords by rather a more broad sense of context.

  • Content Creation

    • Traditional SEO: Often produces content based on keyword targeting and SEO metrics.

    • GEO: Focuses on creating comprehensive, engaging content that answers user queries in a conversational manner. When using a multi-modal tool, queries and results can be displayed in contextual, audio, or visual forms.

  • Technology Utilization

    • Traditional SEO: Uses analytics and tailored SEO tools to track rankings, backlinks, and keyword performance.

    • GEO: Utilizes AI-driven transformer models and machine learning techniques to interpret user intent and generate content that is aggregated, contextually appropriate, factually relevant, and engaging.

  • User Experience

    • Traditional SEO: Aims to optimize site speed, mobile responsiveness, and user navigation for better rankings.

    • GEO: Prioritizes delivering precise answers and high-quality content that directly addresses the user’s needs and questions within a contextual and easily digestible framework.

While not complete, these key differences illustrate why and how the focus of content optimization is shifting from merely attracting search engine attention through technical means in traditional SEO to genuinely providing value and directly answering user queries in GEO through several modalities, such as text, audio, or visualized formats simultaneously.

What To Track, Measure, and Report


  • Organic Traffic: Measure the volume of non-paid traffic driven to the website through search engines.

  • Keyword Rankings: Track targeted keyword rankings on SERPs to assess visibility and performance.

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): Monitor the percentage of users who click on your website's search results compared to the total impressions.

  • Backlink Profile: Evaluate the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing to the website, indicating authority and trustworthiness.


  • Engagement Metrics: Assess user engagement metrics such as time on page, bounce rate, and social shares for generated content.

  • Personalization Effectiveness: Evaluate the effectiveness of personalized content variations in driving conversions and engagement.

  • Efficiency and Cost Savings: Analyze the time and cost savings achieved through automation and scalability in content generation.

Having delineated the similarities and disparities between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Generative Engine Optimization (GEO), it's pivotal to delve into the practical application of current and future GEO strategies. This is especially pertinent for nonprofits aiming to enhance their brand awareness, storytelling, engagement, and philanthropic growth efforts. Below, we outline a succinct 10-step guide elucidating the seamless integration of GEO tactics, ensuring nonprofits can effectively harness GEO to bolster their mission-driven initiatives.

10-Steps On How to Start Implementing GEO 

  1. Understand Your Audience: Delve deep into your target audience's demographics, interests, and behaviors.

  2. Define Your Objectives: Clearly outline your goals for GEO implementation.

  3. Content Audit: Conduct a comprehensive audit of your existing content within multiple modalities (text, audio, video, and imagery).

  4. Citing sources: Adding relevant citations from credible sources. 

  5. Including quotations: Incorporating relevant quotations from credible sources. 

  6. Adding statistics: Modifying content to include quantitative statistics instead of qualitative discussion, wherever possible. 

  7. Implement Multimedia: Incorporate multimedia elements to enhance user experience.

  8. Personalization: Embrace personalization techniques to tailor content and experiences.

  9. Stay Updated: Stay informed about the latest trends and best practices.

  10. Measure and Iterate: Provide opportunities for user feedback and track key metrics.

Final Thoughts 

As nonprofits quickly navigate the evolving digital landscape made possible by technological breakthroughs in Generative AI, the shift from SEO to GEO heralds a new and exciting era of possibility and potential. By embracing this transformative approach, organizations can amplify their impact and forge deeper connections with their audience. 

By harnessing the synergies between SEO and GEO, nonprofits can unlock a wealth of opportunities to elevate their digital presence, engage their audience, acquire new donors and engagers, and grow their fundraising pipeline. 

As we approach the dawn of a new digital search era, it's evident that generative engines and GEO are fundamentally altering the landscape of content discovery and consumption.

In these shifts, the primary emphasis should be focused on the continuation of generating authoritative content that appeals to both generative engines and human audiences. The exploration of GEO is only in its infancy, and its progression has the potential to introduce additional advancements, and new hurdles in the pursuit of digital prominence. By prioritizing both strategies and continuously optimizing their digital marketing efforts, nonprofits can achieve long-term sustainability and success in achieving their mission.

So, are you ready to embark on this journey toward meaningful engagement and lasting change?


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Shaff Fundraising Group is a consulting firm specializing in fundraising, marketing, and analytics. We take pride in our independent approach, free from technology affiliations with SaaS and other companies. This allows us to provide objective, solutions-oriented support to our client partners and the broader fundraising and engagement community.


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