Marketing is a key way to fulfill a service-oriented missionDoes the notion of marketing your nonprofit make you cringe? Perhaps you're hesitant to spend money on anything other than programs, or the prospect of "selling" your organization and its work feels somehow irrelevant or more suited to a for-profit business. That's fair. Still, all nonprofits need supporters — and marketing is a key tool you can use to build a network of advocates who'll contribute to your mission.
Update the historic view
Historically, marketing was sometimes seen as morally beneath organizations working to improve and enrich people's lives — as if focused on convincing people to do something they didn't want to do. This notion, however, is a thing of the past. Marketing has become a key part of contemporary nonprofit fundraising and development. In some cases, there's a legal duty to communicate how you're spending public money.
Marketing not only demonstrates the good you're doing, but helps exemplify thought leadership, transparency and best practices. Marketing spreads your message and communicates your results. And who's better able to tell the story of your organization's efforts and achievements than you and those you serve?
Focus on the cause
While advertising is about selling products, nonprofit marketing is about furthering a cause. It's less about selling something than it is about raising awareness.
Whether it's introducing audiences to new works of art or explaining how an organization is making new interventions in the fight against poverty, awareness-raising is a meaningful endeavor. In describing your organization's mission and tactics, you're building support, convincing your audience of the value of your work, and persuading them to get involved. In fact, marketing — including sharing your work with the communities you serve — is a key way to fulfill a service-oriented mission.
Tell a story
Nonprofit marketing is a way to tell the stories of your organization's work and the change you make in people's lives. This storytelling communicates the work you do, the impact you make and the mission that drives your organization forward. In fact, it's an essential part of the work you do. And it isn't a one-way street. Nonprofit marketing is a conversation meant to build relationships with potential participants, donors, other stakeholders and larger communities.
Move from "why" to "how"
Want to build awareness or support for your brand? Tell your story in a newsletter or on your website. Need to raise funds or create partnerships? Share your news and engage with others through social media. Want to build capacity to fulfill your mission? Present your story in an annual report or, better yet, share it with potential funders or partners in person.
Ultimately, marketing is a conversation between your organization and those you wish to reach. Good marketing allows you to stay true to your mission, represent yourself honestly and promise only what you can deliver.
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Partners in Philanthropy: Marketing is different in the not-for-profit world by Michael Maude