How-to Market a Non-Profit Organization: Non-Profit, No Problem

Category: Marketing Strategies & Tips

Non-profit organizations are kind of like the neighbourhood kid that keeps visiting during your family functions – everyone thinks he’s cute, but nobody takes him seriously and he will never really be a legit member of the fam. That’s what non-profits are to for-profit businesses, increasing the number of challenges they face when marketing their products and services.

For-profit businesses are easy to understand, as they operate as a business that wants to make money. That is their main objective and their bottom line, which makes them profit driven. Non-profits differ, as their bottom line is the impact they make on society, not how much money they make through their operations. This is harder to understand, as their motives are more genuine and less one-sided, and it is harder for them to display the value of their business. Therefore, they have to use different tactics and methods to market their operations successfully.

People are good at their core, and they’re motivated by the good

People want to see the value in goods and services. That is often the primary or only motivation to buy – how it will enhance the user’s life and make things easier. Non-profits have a harder time communicating their value. For example, it can be hard to market a non-profit heart disease foundation to people that don’t have heart issues. They don’t easily see that helping other people with heart issues could benefit them in the long run, as they are more focused on easing their life in the short run.

To combat this, the first step to non-profit marketing is to properly communicate the value of it. Being aware of the society’s image in the community and how well received the work that the do is. This will help pinpoint trouble areas, and marketers can focus their efforts on creating messages and campaigns to combat a bad image or enhance the good points of one.

Non-profits have to be hyper aware of their past campaigns, knowing the specific details of what worked and what didn’t. People aren’t very forgiving to non-profits, as if their fundraising earnings aren’t spent on what donors think it should be spent on, donors often feel cheated and won’t donate again. While the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was successful in some regards, it also had it’s angry mob against it, citing that only 60 cents on every dollar went to research and detesting that it wasted clean drinking water. Therefore, knowing what fundraising campaigns worked and why may give insight into what people liked about a campaign or cause, enabling the non-profit to highlight those aspects in the marketing efforts.

Different rules for a different kind of business

Non-profits need to be knowledgeable about the legalities of their business. Different types of non-profits have different rules guiding them and the types of donations they can accept along with the types of fundraising and marketing campaigns they can do. For example, a charity has different guidelines than a society, as a charity is allowed to give a tax receipt and a society may not be able, in some cases.

But perhaps the most critical factor to the success of a marketing campaign for a non-profit is to demonstrate the value of it, not just to communicate it. As exemplified in the Buy the World a Hope movement, instead of spending money on strict advertising campaigns, let the work itself be the campaign. For example, if you’re head of marketing for an environmental society and want to generate awareness and revenue for the society, don’t allocate money for ads per say. Instead, spearhead a cleanup initiative, or something similar, to demonstrate the value of the firm. Support the initiative through online channels – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and create unique hashtags – to allow people to talk about the work and ask question. Film the work of initiative and turn that into a variety of campaigns – a 30 second clip, a two-minute, more in depth piece, and even a six second Vine. Milk the footage for whatever you can, as it will be the best way to demonstrate the value of the organization and why it’s deserving of support.

Creativity is always a key-success factor

Get as creative as One Direction – if they can milk their careers this long, non-profits can benefit from squeezing every advertising opportunity out of an initiative. And on that note, enlist the help of notable people – local heroes or celebrities that are sympathetic to the cause. Think Sarah McLachlan and the animals in need initiatives that have everyone sobbing at the end, holding their cats tight.

While non-profits will always be the odd neighbourhood kid that desperately wants to be apart of the for-profit family, it doesn’t mean they should be underestimated. They play with a different set of rules than their for-profit counterparts, but once those rules are understood, non-profit marketing them can be an interesting challenge, and can be very beneficial to society, making an impact on their communities while concurrently advertising for their cause.

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Faye Alexander

Faye Alexander loves to type, scribble and scrawl because words are her favourite play things. As an editor, writer and social media professional, she brought her skill-set to the evolving world of Marketing. She has a passion for inciting meaningful dialogue through crafted content and opening doors to two-way conversations. Some of her favourite words include, but are not limited to: feminism, effervescent, spoon and malarchy.

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