Five fundamentals of nonprofit marketing


We’ve been working more closely with several local nonprofit organizations lately, and the more I speak with those responsible for fundraising and donor relations, the more I realize just how similar the process is to creating and managing a for-profit sales process.

I’m also seeing the same fundamental needs for those marketing a charitable cause or nonprofit organization. The below five fundamentals of nonprofit marketing are a starting point, but should be at the core of every nonprofit’s strategy.

Donor Profiles: There are so many worthy organizations out there. Which prospective donors are going to be most predisposed to support your cause? What do those potential donors have in common – their associations, their history, their demo or psychographic make-up? You don’t need to hone in on just one specific donor profile, but you should have a good sense for the 2-4 profiles that are your primary target. The more you know about them, the more self-evident the messages, channels and tactics will be to engage them directly.

Defining Your Product: What are you “selling” to prospective donors? It’s not the tactics of what you actually do, but the outcome of that work. All too often, nonprofits tell their donors about the operations, or what additional infrastructure or materials they need. But what is all that for? What are you enabling? How are you making lives better? What’s the benefit, the result, the outcome of what you’re doing? THAT is your product, and that’s the kind of vision your prospective donors will be attracted to.

Storytelling: Spend less time describing what you do, and more time telling stories about the differences you’re making. Tell stories about the recipients of your work. Share the before and after. When it’s an option, let the recipients of your work tell the story for you – in print, on video, and in person. Stories make an impression far longer-lasting than mission statements and operational descriptions. Stories can communicate the emotion behind what you’re doing better than anything else.

Mobilizing the Community: Take your product definition, your mission, and think carefully about the ecosystem of people, groups, organizations, communities and businesses that relate to it. How can those various individuals and groups help you spread the word, or even contribute directly? If you’re involved in transitional housing, how good are your relationships with local real estate offices? Are they giving directly? Are the individual Realtors involved, and getting their own buyer/seller customers involved? Be exhaustive and creative about mobilizing related communities on behalf of your organization.

Creating Evangelists: You have them already. Passionate donors. Highly-involved volunteers and board members. A variety of individuals and groups who feel strongly about what you’re doing. No matter their level of passion, they won’t help spread the word as widely as they could if you don’t help them. Give them reminders to do so, give them content to pass along, give them the facilities and tools to share. This alone can be so simple, but so powerful. Identifying, arming and mobilizing the evangelists in and around your organization can be the very foundation of your marketing strategy.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll go deeper into each of these fundamentals with more examples and suggestions for action.