For organizations designed to operate without profit, marketing is often seen as an unnecessary expense. The gap between spending on marketing – and the corresponding results – by for-profit corporations and nonprofit organizations is substantial. It is often a philosophical difference. Corporations believe they exist to make money. Nonprofits believe they exist to perform the work of their mission. But where will the resources to do that important work come from without effective marketing?
Employing an Integrated Nonprofit Marketing Strategy
An integrated marketing strategy will tie together all nonprofit communications with a unified approach and consistent branding. While marketing functions often exist in different departments in an organization – fundraising communications in the development department and volunteer recruitment communications in the program department, for example – it is possible to create a comprehensive marketing plan to reach all stakeholders (groups that have a meaningful interest in the organization, such as donors, volunteers, employees, board members and governmental agencies).
In Nonprofit Marketing: Marketing Management for Charitable and Nongovernmental Organizations (2006), Roger Gomes and Patricia A. Knowles outline the dimensions of nonprofit marketing:
- Planning – The marketing plan must be tied to the strategic plan of the organization. Research during this stage will help inform the overall marketing plan. It is often helpful to bring in staff members who communicate with specific groups of stakeholders to gather input and build consensus.
- Positioning – Nonprofit organizations compete for attention not only with other worthy causes, but with all marketing messages bombarding stakeholders. The first challenge for a nonprofit, say Gomes and Knowles, is “becoming well-known to the community it serves.” The next step is to influence the public’s perception to create a favorable image. Finally, the nonprofit tackles the task of differentiation to frame how people perceive the organization in the context of similar nonprofits.
- Communicating – A variety of tactics can be used to communicate with different stakeholders. Each audience will require its own set of tactics, such as press releases for members of the media and advertising for volunteer recruitment. The list of communications activities will likely be long, and should be coordinated so that individuals from more than one stakeholder group receive consistent information in a respectful timetable.
- Attracting Resources – The ability of most nonprofits requires the attraction of time, talent and treasure. Time and talent refer to the contributions of volunteers, who might support an organization’s service delivery, help with back-office operations or perform leadership roles. Treasure refers to the role of financial donors, both large and small, in providing the organization with money and in-kind contributions to pay for the organization’s activities. This marketing dimension must be carefully coordinated to conform to best practices in volunteer management, leadership development and fundraising.
Nonprofit Online Marketing Can Help
An online presence with a website is no longer optional for most nonprofit organizations. Communication by email is rapidly replacing costly postal mail as the preference of organizations and their stakeholders. To translate this move to online communication, from email blasts to interactive websites to social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, nonprofit organizations must employ new technologies.
Nonprofit marketing software providers such as Convio, Compass and Groundpring offer solutions that work directly with an organization’s database to automate marketing communications with segmented audiences. This will not replace the integrated marketing plan, but rather become an important part of that plan.
Successful nonprofit organizations can embrace the marketing strategies of for-profit corporations while honoring their mission and commitment to good stewardship of donated funds. Marketing for nonprofits need not be – or create a perception of being – expensive, but it should be professional.