Marketing has traditionally been a concept in commercial sector due to associated costs and strategic aim of selling a product, neither of which pertain to not-for-profit organizations. However, the application of marketing has been broadened in the nonprofit sector as a variety of mediums appeared that could be used to gain public awareness. A key distinction of nonprofit marketing is the necessity to continuously modify its strategy in accordance to the consumer environment, availability of financial resources, and the values which an organization supports (“Not-For-Profit Marketing”).
Nonprofit organizations function with the purpose of advocating or supporting a certain mission that covers social, political, or environmental concerns facing society (Gynn). This allows for content marketing that portrays a meaningful and inspirational narration which is appealing to any given audience. Using this concept of content marketing, organizations are able to address challenges of small budgets, understaffing, and lack of exposure. Nonprofits can focus on using mediums which are free (social media), employing volunteers, and increase public awareness through education and word of mouth; all of which are tremendously driven forward by inspirational ideology in strategic content marketing (Gynn).
Without a physical product or offered services, not-for-profit organizations struggle with the acquisition of ‘customers’ through traditional advertising mediums, even via social media. Therefore, their marketing campaigns must select the most effective and cost-efficient methods to gain awareness. It is critical to note the reasons for why a non-profit organization requires marketing and public awareness. First, the more people know about the specific mission, the easier it is to engage social movements, gain political support, and attract support such as volunteers. However, since such organizations operate at a loss of profit, marketing is necessary to gain financial support. The most common categories of financially-focused marketing campaigns seek to attract:
- Traditional cause marketing that calls for donations in exchange for a symbolic product.
- Consumer fundraising to encourage donation at places of business or other platforms in support of the organizational mission
- Sponsorship of an organizational event or program to bolster the public cause (Lake).
A competent approach to strategic marketing allows for a nonprofit to expand its perspective beyond internal operations and focus its communications in a way that portrays a consistent and influential appearance to the external society. Nonprofit marketing consists of several key dimensions which encompass its overall strategy (Hafan). First, planning is critical in nonprofit marketing, helping to develop a strategy to achieve its goals as well as adhere to the strict budgeting and regulatory restrictions of such organizations. Positioning is the central concept to marketing that allows for an organization to establish its message and place within a community by creating a favorable and distinct image that would attract support and donations in a crowded marketing space (Hafan).
Communication remains a critical notion in nonprofit marketing in order to expand promotional capabilities. The following are strategies which an organization should apply in practice:
- The use of promotional mix to build customer value and relationships.
- Develop an integrated marketing plan.
- Comprehensive strategy to utilize all available communication channels in a coordinated manner.
- Focused message with a specific call to action (Molland).
- Consistent communication between an organization and its stakeholders and clients.
- Develop and incorporate a brand strategy for the organization.
- Communication should create commercial value through consistency and identity.
- Cost-benefits of not-for-profit branding include:
- Builds public trust through brand promise and communication
- Creates long-term and credible equity for the organizational mission
- Provides leverage for an organization to receive or gain access to critical financial, capital, and networking resources (Keller and Dato-on 87).
- Communication strategies should outline an organization’s goals that will be used to gauge and optimize performance.
- Target audiences must be identified based on interests and social activity.
- Observing target audiences in interaction with medial and online content can provide valuable information on increasing awareness about the nonprofit in that specific demographic.
- Use the extensive and relatively inexpensive outreach of social media networks that can be carefully crafted to expand its influence over time. This allows relaying the organization’s mission and background while encouraging action and contribution through the use of powerful imagery.
- Non-profit marketing should focus on maintaining a conversation with its audience in communication, leading to more engagement and transparency (“Best Nonprofit Communication Strategies”).
A clear communication strategy should be in place that corresponds with an organization’s stakeholders. Stakeholders are groups that interact and impact the organization, ranging from shareholders to regulatory agencies and supply chain partners (“Not-For-Profit Marketing”). Everyone, including employees, board members, clients, and donors require guidance and information that should be communicated in order for these parties to understand the non-profits strategic goals and objectives. Finally, resource attraction is the primary purpose of most nonprofit marketing campaigns, soliciting donations. A marketing orientation uses a variety of methods to develop vital relationships and expand the ability to influence the community (Hafan).
Developing a pertinent and competently developed marketing mix is critical for the survival of a not-for-profit organization in the market. The focus on nontraditional and grassroots efforts which are inexpensive and result in widespread awareness could be significantly advantageous for nonprofits. An efficient plan helps to understand and identify target audiences and segmentation that would be fundamental to commercial success.
“Best Nonprofit Communication Strategies.” Queens University of Charlotte, n.d., Web.
Gynn, Ann. “Nonprofit Marketing in 2017: Challenges, Strategies, and Examples.” Content Marketing Institute. 2017, Web.
Hafan, Ty. Introduction to Nonprofit Marketing. n.d., Web.
Keller, Eileen Weisenbach, and Mary Conway Dato-on. “Testing the Premise that Marketing Attitudes and Brand Orientation Correlate with Nonprofit Performance: Connecting Research and Practice.” Proceedings of the 2010 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Annual Conference. Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science, edited by Dawn Deeter-Schmelz, Springer, 2015, pp. 86-90.
Molland, Judy. “Integrated Marketing for Nonprofits.” Charity Village. 2017, Web.
Lake, Laura. “What is Nonprofit Marketing.” The Balance. 2017, Web.
“Not-For-Profit Marketing.” Oxford University Press, n.d., Web.
“What’s Normal? Communications at a Typical Nonprofit in 2015.” Stone Soup Creative, 2017, Web.