4 Ugly Truths About Marketing For Nonprofits

There are several pitfalls marketers need to avoid when marketing for nonprofits. Here’s the top 4 issues we hear about over and over again, with some solutions we know will help make it easier!

1. You Are Always Marketing, Whether You Want To Or Not

Problem: Brands aren’t something you can turn off and on, whether you like it or not, your supporters are always perceiving you through the messaging you are and are not sending them. For instance, not having a social media presence is just as powerful, if not more, than having one. Of course, in most cases by not using social media you’d be alienating a large portion of your potential donor base. Other examples might be an animal shelter not having uniforms to easily identify its staff or volunteers, a hospital foundation not sharing the stories of how donations have been used,  – you get the picture.

Solution: Don’t put off your most obvious marketing needs, start making baby steps today. You can begin with a marketing plan! There are several places to find good marketing plan examples: Nancy Schwartz’s is good and robust, Kivi Leroux Miller has a nice simple one, and there are tons of others online. Below is the one we use for our clients. Feel free to download the PDF and adapt it for your own use. A marketing plan is truly the center of what we’ve found to be the success of really good marketing for nonprofits.

[gview file="http://markandphil.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Marketing-Plan-NPO.pdf"]

2. Your Biggest Competition Is Apathy

Problem: We see this one a lot. Organizations do a great job of identifying their real world competition but don’t realize that their biggest competition is really a supporters default attitude to do nothing. Why should they sign your petition? Why should they donate towards your capital campaign? Why should they retweet your message?

Solution: You need to give them a reason to say “Yes!”. We find that its smarter to give folks a reason to say yes, rather than worrying about why they say no (power of positive thinking people!). So start by making sure that whatever your marketing action is, it is something that gives the audience a compelling reason to partake – what’s in it for them? For instance, for Shop Your Values Week, we wanted to let NYers know about all the great sustainable and local stores that are in New York City. So to convince folks we made a microsite showing a map of all the locations and their specials for Shop Your Values Week. This gave folks incentive to want to learn more, be a part of the week, and share it with their friends. We easily could have just cut corners and listed the places with no other info, but that wouldn’t have been compelling!

3. Your Marketing Plan is Never “Finished”

Problem: Marketing plans, like business plans, can be so time consuming to create that once you’ve completed it you literally don’t want to have to look at it again for another year. Do not fall into this trap! Nothing could be further from the truth.

Solution: You need to be reviewing your marketing plan at least once a quarter if not every single month. Think of it this way, the marketing plan acts as your blueprint for all of your marketing efforts, so if you see something isn’t working or you find a possible new solution that might work, then you need to be able to adjust accordingly for that. Make your marketing plan a living document. Print it out and tape it to your wall. YES, tape it to your wall where you cannot hide from it! What you’ll find is that you’ll be paying more attention to your marketing actions and whether they are helping support your big picture objectives or just consuming unnecessary resources.

4. Marketing Takes Time, Consistency, and Dedication

Problem: We know its hard out there but unfortunately there is no shortcut when you’re marketing for nonprofits. Its going to take consistent efforts on your part over a long period of time.

Solution: Fortunately there are tons of people and tools out there that can help you be consistent and reduce the amount of time you have to spend “doing” your marketing actions. For instance, a web application like Hootsuite can help you manage your social media marketing – allowing you to see streams of social media content relevant to your organization, schedule messaging, and more. You should also check out DivvyHQ – it can help with scheduling and brainstorming your content marketing throughout the year. We’re absolutely loving it! They also offer a 10% discount to nonprofit organizations.