Marketing non-profits isn’t [exactly] the same as marketing for profit here’s why…

Marketing Strategic Consultant Services

Marketing non-profits isn’t [exactly] the same as marketing for profit here’s why…

Have you heard the saying, “there’s profit in non-profit?” While that might sound a bit cynical, it points to the breadth and depth of the non-profit industry. According to Statista – a global data and business intelligence platform – “the total number of charitable organizations, public charities, and private foundations (in the U.S.) reached $1.49 million with annual expense exceeding $2.46 trillion.”

That’s big business!

And just like a typical business, a non-profit will need to market/promote/sell themselves. In general, marketing a non-profit follows the same protocols as marketing for a commercial business with a few nuances specific to the non-profit world.

Consulting for a non-profit begins by bringing together a diverse group of their employees who cover a variety of different roles. Once together, the group will complete a series of exercises designed to gain insight into the different areas and functions. The results will provide an analysis of the organization from different perspectives. Just because a non-profit serves the public and focuses on a particular social cause doesn’t mean that they should ignore marketing themselves. Every business – no matter its size or industry – should be aware of its strengths, weaknesses, obstacles, and threats – it’s the key to survival!

Once we have completed a thorough analysis we can start developing and focusing on goals, messaging and creating marketing tactics and strategies.  

This is the point where marketing between a profit v. non-profit begins to differ.   

A typical business has customers or clients, but non-profits refer to their audience base as supporters, donors, or friends, among others. When you think about those titles, they elicit a feeling or impression that the person and the non-profit are collaborators working together for a specific cause. The two share the same beliefs and desires. This unique and very special connection is what changes the marketing approach for non-profits. Non-profits generally don’t take their message and blanket the airways, guerrilla marketing isn’t their style, but storytelling is.

While businesses use word-of-mouth, yelp, or google reviews to gain position in the marketplace, non-profits enlist their supporters to become ambassadors who represent the non-profit. A non-profit may only have five employees are their payroll, but anyone who has touched the organization – either by a donation or volunteer effort – is ‘advertising or marketing’ the organization creating a buzz about it wherever they go. This group of advocates is critical to helping the non-profit market itself. Along with their voice these are my top three tactics for marketing a non-profit:  

  1. Develop (or update) a database of supporters – A typical business may have a loyalty program they offer to regular customers. For non-profits, it’s important that they know who their supporters are and maintain a list of donors that is current. This list reflects active and engaged individuals who the non-profit should be communicating with regularly. For the non-profit, staying front and center in their supporters’ minds will help to keep the non-profit relevant.
  • Design a recognition mechanism for donors – The best way to keep donors or to encourage bigger giving is to incorporate a recognition program. A recognition program can take on any size or shape. From appreciation galas to donor walls, to monthly spotlights, making sure to appreciate the help and efforts of a supporter will go a long way.
  • Create fundraising tactics! Every year non-profits are fighting for funds. Whether it’s grant dollars, donations, or in-kind services or products a non-profit wants to ensure that they can maintain their level of service so their clients’ can continue to receive services. This is time where any and all ideas take center stage. The important thing to do is that whatever tactic you use to bring in dollars is able to sustain itself.