A few years ago, we were
hired to help a small environmental NonProfit with their marketing efforts.
Their complaint was simple: Nobody knows who we are or what we
We analyzed their existing
marketing and communications efforts, talking with people both inside and
outside the organization, trying to see the full picture of the groups
communications. Within a short time, we were ready to report our
We know why nobody
knows who you are or what you do, we told them. You dont tell
This group was using a
number of marketing tools. They had a great brochure, an impressive quarterly
journal, PR with local media - many of the tools youd read about in a
standard off-the-shelf small business marketing book. The problem is these
tools were ineffective for getting the right people to know the organization
and what it does. And for ineffective tools, they were pretty expensive ones at
Although these standard
small business marketing approaches are not the most effective for NonProfits,
your organization is in luck. There are 3 marketing techniques that work great
for NonProfits, and they are virtually free!
What To Know Before You Start
Before we get into the
tools themselves, its important to understand what these tools can do
that others cant. So lets review what you want your marketing tools
to do for your organization.
is simply communicating effectively with folks who can help your organization
accomplish its goals.
From that simple
definition, it is easy to see that first, it is critical to know
precisely what your organization is trying to accomplish - its goals. Only then
can you determine in what ways communications can further those goals.
Two common goals for
nonprofit communications are 1) seeking support (donors, volunteers,
legislators, etc.) and 2) doing outreach to prospective clients and referral
sources for clients. This article will use those two goals as examples. But
remember - there are communications needs for every goal in your strategic
plan, and these tools will be just as effective in furthering those goals as
What Effective Marketing Approaches Do for Your
The most effective
marketing approaches are those that do two things for your communications
Differentiate your organization
your target audience your stuff
Differentiating Your Organization: Why Should
An effective marketing
approach will differentiate your organization from other options.
supporters, your approach should differentiate this opportunity to help from
others they encounter. If youve never considered the question Why
should I help your organization instead of the XYZ Group? then you
havent been thinking about differentiating your organization in the minds
of prospective supporters. Your marketing to supporters will hinge on that
critical question: Why should I?
When marketing to your
prospective clients, you are also looking to differentiate the service you
provide from others they may receive, or from the option of receiving no
service at all! Whether you are offering battered women the opportunity to get
out of an abusive relationship, or offering the art-viewing public the
opportunity to see a new exhibit, the goal is to make YOUR option appear to be
the best (and maybe only) choice. Again, this aspect of your marketing must
answer the question, Why should I?
to-the-point book, Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern
Marketing, Harry Beckwith says, Your greatest competitor is not
your competition. It is indifference. The question Why
should I? must be one of your most treasured measuring sticks.
So when it comes to
prospective supporters, you wont have much to communicate until you can
What makes your organization special? Unique?
What has your organization got that others dont have?
And for prospective
clients / patrons / attendees / referrers, you wont have much to
communicate until you can answer:
What is the choice you offer to clients?
How will you improve their lives?
How will you affect them personally?
Show Them What Youve Got
Once you have figured out
what makes your organization special, the next thing marketing needs to do is
to show prospective supporters and clients how wonderful your
Notice I didnt say
tell them how terrific you are, but show them. This is
the same approach used by food purveyors in the supermarket on a Saturday
afternoon. They dont have someone at the end of the aisle to tell folks
about the product; they have someone there with pizza or hot dog pieces or
cheese on a stick. They want you to see for yourself how good their product
The only product your
organization has to sell is the good work you do. So the best marketing
techniques will be the NonProfit equivalent of free pizza. You cant just
tell them your organization is amazing; you have to provide a way for them to
see for themselves.
The best marketing
approaches will give your prospective supporters AND prospective clients the
opportunity to see for themselves just how terrific your organization is, and
what it can do. And in doing that, you will simultaneously be differentiating
yourself from all the other options they may be considering. You will be
answering that critical question, Why should I?
NonProfit Marketing Tool #1: Writing
One of the best ways to
show the world what youve got is to write. This can mean writing articles
for newsletters and local newspapers, or it can mean writing a book. In every
industry and in every community, there are publications looking for content.
Find a list of all the publications within your particular niche (whether
its your geographic community, or your community of interest, such as the
regional art or environmental or educational community), and then ask if they
would publish an article on an issue of particular concern to their readers. It
could be a column on child abuse in a school PTA newsletter, or an article on
the effects of eco-tourism for the local lifestyle magazine.
You may need to use the
marketing approaches noted above - differentiating yourself, and showing your
stuff - just to get published. But once you have found someone who will publish
your article, that piece will stand on its own. It will show how special your
organization is, and that will immediately make your organization stand out.
Thats why writing is a great marketing tool for NonProfits.
NonProfit Marketing Tool #2: Speaking
Another effective way to
show what youve got is speaking. There are always groups looking for
effective speakers - speakers who know their subject and can capture an
audiences attention for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour. If you make
clear to the group that you are NOT there to ask for money (their main fear of
NonProfits - that you will hit up their group for cash), but just to share what
you know about an issue concerning the community, there are a myriad of
speaking engagements just waiting for someone from your organization.
Speaking goes one step
beyond writing, because when a prospective supporter, client or referrer sees
you speak, they are getting a tangible sense of what the organization is like
and what you can do. They will immediately sense your organizations
approach, integrity, energy. They will quickly sense whether or not there is a
connection between what they need and what your organization has to offer.
Seeing someone speak is as close to snacking on pizza in the supermarket as
your prospects can get!
If you are not an
experienced speaker, there are plenty of places to learn, the most common being
Toastmasters. (Check your phone book. There is a Toastmasters chapter in just
about every community.) Toastmasters will provide you with plenty of
opportunity to practice and learn in a supportive environment.
|To turn Public Speaking into
for your organization,
And if you suffer from Stage Fright,
check out the article
"Fear of Public Speaking" at our
NonProfit Marketing Tool #3: Word of Mouth
We all know that the word
of a trusted friend or colleague can go miles to open doors to new prospects.
But it is surprising how few people really take advantage of this marketing
Contrary to what you may
think, you dont have to sit passively and wait for word of mouth to
happen. You can create it!
How to Do It: Take one current supporter
(or client referrer) to breakfast each week, to just chat about whats
going on in your organization (and theirs!). During that breakfast, ask that
supporter if he can suggest 3 other people who might want to know about your
work. And then ask if he would call those 3 people to make an introduction for
you, so that when you call its not a cold call.
Then call those people,
and tour them through your facility or meet them in their office to tell them
about the work your organization does. Dont ask them for anything - just
start to build the relationship so that they know who you are. In the case of
client referrers, find out whats going on in their organization - the
good things, the bad things. In the case of potential supporters, start to
learn about their interests, and see if there are commonalities. Then follow up
with that new friend - a thank you note for their time, an article you saw that
you thought they might enjoy, or the new article you just wrote! Keep them in
your monthly/bi-monthly contact loop, and continue to follow up. When referrers
need you, they will know you are there. When you call that potential supporter
to ask for his assistance, he will be ready to help.
This is the type of sales
work any of us can feel comfortable with. Its not hard sell, and
its generated from the word of mouth of a supportive friend who is
already familiar with the good work you do.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that
when you market your organization with these three tools, folks already have a
strong sense of what they are buying. And that can have a far
greater effect than you had intended with that one article, that one speech,
that one breakfast.
Writing, speaking and
word-of-mouth will open doors for your organization - doors to people who are
already pre-sold, because, like the pizza, they tasted it right there in the