The Cause Agency

Nonprofit Marketing: Essential for Mission Success

Large corporations spend millions of dollars on advertising and marketing each year. Why? Because, while you may have the world’s greatest product (i.e. cure for the common cold), it will never sell unless people know about it.

Private sector companies understand the benefit of investing in marketing, but most nonprofits do not have the luxury of an extensive advertising budget. Only one out of every three nonprofits has a marketing plan in place for 2013. In the nonprofit world the constant challenge is to do more with less. Many nonprofits, doing truly amazing work, struggle to generate revenue and that can be partly attributed to weak marketing.

A recent study reported that 37% of nonprofits raised less funding than the previous year in the first three quarters of 2012 and 28% received only as much funding as they had last year. The percentage of charities reporting a decline in funding in 2012 was the second highest in 11 years, surpassed only in 2009 when slightly more than 50% of charities reported a drop in donations.

Making marketing a priority for your nonprofit can help fight declining donations. When a cause is top-of-mind for potential donors, they will be motivated into becoming brand ambassadors for your cause.

Just like a for-profit business, nonprofits have customers. Instead of consumers these are donors, members, sponsors, volunteers or those people benefitting from the nonprofit’s cause. Just like a product, the cause needs to be sold to these shareholders to motivate them into becoming a donor, a member, a sponsor or a volunteer.

What can nonprofits do to develop effective marketing and public relations?

  • Develop a plan: Too many nonprofits have implemented marketing strategies by just “winging” it. Create a strategic marketing plan that defines who your customers are, how you are going to reach them and what your system is for motivating them.
  • Don’t be afraid to spend money: Many nonprofits have a hard time justifying money spent on intangibles like marketing because there are so many tangible necessities requiring more immediate attention. However, investing in marketing gets the word out about your cause, which helps build your future base of brand ambassadors. J.O. president, Jennifer Henderson believes, “no matter what budget struggles a nonprofit has, or a for-profit for that matter, there is always a creative way to tell your story and get your message to the masses.”
  • Tell your stories: Every nonprofit mission comes with emotional and relevant stories – exactly the stuff to grab your audience’s attention. Get these stories on video. Ask everyone involved in your cause to speak from the heart and explain why they do what they do. Get those stories out there! The people already supporting your cause are your best brand ambassadors. In 2010 J.O. created the “I’m In” campaign for Komen Greater Fort Worth using real life stories and individuals as brand ambassadors. “By showing real people who have been affected by or believe in Komen’s mission, the nonprofit is able to connect with individuals in our community in an emotional way,” says J.O. Public Relations Director, Liz Heck.
  • Nonprofits are changing lives, one cause at a time. For this reason, they need to devote attention and resources to reaching those who can help expand their mission. Marketing and public relations can help nonprofits gain the support they need to better our community and the world.