I have been experimenting with marketing some of the services my organization provides. This experience has taught me a few essential lessons. Nonprofit Marketing Essentials is a series of posts intended to share some of those lessons so that we can learn together.
Good Marketing is Good Management
In most businesses, failure to market products and services effectively results in poor revenue, and overspending on marketing diminishes profits. Most nonprofit organizations strive toward a specific cause rather than pursuing healthy profit margins. An effective nonprofit organization must be well managed and a significant aspect of management far too many organizations overlook is marketing. Good marketing in a nonprofit organization includes more than advertising and promotion, but also considers marketing analysis; which seeks to understand the context and challenges a marketing effort faces. Many of the challenges of marketing for nonprofit organizations are the same as the challenges in marketing for business.
Develop a Unique Value Proposition
For example, every business, product, or service must have a unique value proposition. Nonprofit organizations must also have a proposition that describes why others should use or support the organization. This proposition statement should describe what sets the organization apart from others pursuing similar causes.
Establish and Maintain Clear Branding
Branding and messaging is also a challenge that nonprofits and businesses share. Each must communicate what customers or supporters should expect from the organization, and all of the organization’s messaging must reinforce the brand reputation they have established.
Similarly, competition can be as much of a challenge in nonprofit organizations as it is for businesses. Supporters can and should be selective, whether they are individuals or philanthropic foundations. A nonprofit organization must set itself apart, deliver on its promises and invest resources wisely.
There are also some marketing challenges that are unique to non-profit organizations and less likely to be faced in a business setting. For example, instead of customers, non-profit organizations must court donors and supporters. While there is still a ladder of engagement for donors and supporters, the ways in which the relationship is cultivated are different.
Partner organizations must also be considered. One of the most effective ways to ensure progress is achieved is through collective impact. According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Collective impact initiatives involve a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, and a structured process that leads to a common agenda, shared measurement, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing activities” among a number of organizations. This type of strategy has been applied to large social issues that only one approach would not be able to address alone, such as educational inequity. Collective impact requires coordination across a number of agencies under a shared mission, vision and communication strategy.
Do you work serve a nonprofit organization? What essential marketing lessons have you learned? Share them in the comments below.