What happens when a group of NESC’s marketing consultants are together in a room? With a wealth of knowledge from careers in IBM, D’Arcy, Masius, Benton and Bowles, Magazine Publishers of America, Merrill Lynch and The Smithsonian, an enlightening conversation on nonprofit marketing occurs. Below is the synopsis of that conversation. Many thanks to the following NESC consultants for participating: Elaine Berk, Anne Finn, Joan Giansante, Dave Mollen, Dorothy Philips, Scott Rockman, and Ira Schwartz.
Marketing is much more than a logo or a slogan. Nonprofits know this to be true. Nonprofits also know that their limited human and financial resources paired with ever increasing demand for services leave almost no time to go beyond a logo or slogan. Gaining marketing insight doesn’t require extra out-of-the-box thinking. It just requires an honest look at the organization. A focus on marketing can be stimulated by the realization that a nonprofit entity is not entirely unique, and that competition does exist.
Marketing helps to address issues such as:
- How is our program/organization different?
- What do we want to be known for?
- Why is our work relevant?
—and to communicate the answers to those questions.
Sounds much more complicated than what it can be.
The process involves identifying how to get the desired response from those groups the organization has targeted for involvement; few nonprofit leaders would deny the worthiness of that goal. While selling is offering something in exchange for money, marketing is a process that entails satisfying certain needs of clients or consumers. Nonprofits must understand what target constituencies want and how to truly provide them the expected benefits.
Marketing consists of strategies and tactics used to identify, create, and maintain satisfying relationships with clients/stakeholders that result in value for all parties involved. Strategies are the direction of the marketing effort over some period of time, while tactics are actionable steps to facilitate the accomplishment of the strategic goals. Marketing plans often spell out the steps that will be taken to address specific strategic objectives such as to attract more volunteers or funds or to change or enhance the value provided to particular stakeholders. Without prior strategic planning, marketing efforts will be less effective in moving the organization toward better fulfillment of that mission.
Marketing is also a process of internal communications that transforms everyone in the organization into a marketer. All individuals in an organization should not only understand the key internal/external “drivers” of its business model, but should also identify with the brand and be able to articulate an “elevator speech.”
The basic steps in nonprofit marketing are:
- Start with a well formulated mission statement
- Carry out strategic planning to clarify what the organization wishes to accomplish
- Develop clear goals
- Review and carefully select target groups, and do research to understand their needs; evaluate environmental factors
- Develop and review marketing plans for consistency with each other and with the strategic plan
- Monitor and evaluate outcomes
In the nonprofit arena, fairly simple and straightforward marketing plans are often most effective.
For further reading, see our white paper on branding for nonprofits.