For many, marketing is most readily identified with for-profit enterprises, but nonprofit organizations are equally, if not more dependent on creative, impactful marketing strategy. Moreover, the differences that characterize nonprofit versus for-profit marketing, when leveraged by nonprofit professionals, can optimize each campaign’s efficacy.
The Four Ps
Joe Urbany, professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, clarifies the discipline’s “Four Ps” as applied to the nonprofit sector.
- Product: Although some exceptions apply, most nonprofit “product” is actually a service, whether scientific research, public education or low-cost medical care. The product line of Catholic Charities, for instance, includes food distribution, elder guardianship, emergency financial assistance and counseling, among others. The Humane Society of the U.S.’s product line features animal rescue and rehabilitation and public advocacy. When defining a nonprofit’s product, leadership must think broadly about its service offerings.
- Place: A nonprofit’s “place,” or distribution channels, typically encompasses multiple avenues of resource collection and disbursement. Most often, the distribution model involves securing donated goods, funds and services and then reallocating those resources to the populations served. First Book, for example, collects donated books from individuals, communities and publishers for redistribution to underserved young readers and underfunded classrooms. Establishing a nonprofit’s place can be as simple as charting its resource collection and reallocation.
- Promotion: Grounded in a deep understanding of the nonprofit’s core message and its target market, effective nonprofit promotions pair target demographics with the media campaigns most likely to reverberate with each audience. The growth of new, Web-based media offer countless promotional opportunities that can be refined accordingly for each medium and message. A key example might be a clean water project in Africa that uploads daily multimedia content to its website and social media accounts to engage millennial supporters.
- Price: Value returned for supporters’ donations, time and services is vital to nonprofit marketing. Better World Books, founded by two graduates of the University of Notre Dame, demonstrates value returned through partnerships with literacy nonprofits: the company collects old textbooks for online resale and accepts donations of unwanted reading material, preventing both from clogging up landfills. In addition to supporting a broad scope of literacy initiatives, contributors experience the added value of protecting the environment.
The best nonprofit outreach strategies deploy tailored content across multi-channel media, including direct mail, social media, websites, blogs, e-newsletters, mobile and more.
- Email: While increasingly eclipsed by newer media, email distribution lists remain the most widely used marketing strategy in the nonprofit sector and are especially effective when distribution content is segmented among recipients based on their past behavior and responsiveness. Strong email content includes donor acknowledgements, special offers on promotional items, surveys and updated event info and is structured to be mobile-friendly: concise, clearly worded and formatted in single columns with larger font.
- Websites: Compelling nonprofit websites showcase fresh, articulate content in an easily navigable layout. Content should address the nonprofit’s mission and vision, programs, populations served and operational locations. Multiple calls to action and links to the nonprofit’s online donation platform are displayed prominently, alongside clear explanations of how donations will be applied to specific projects. Additionally, content clearly outlines funding goals and needs and, like emails, is mobile-friendly.
- Blogs: Like websites, blogs should be fresh, frequently updated and peppered with calls to action and links that facilitate online giving. The best blogs integrate event calendars, as well as posts by a rotation of writers, including regular contributors and featured guests. Donors, volunteers, board members, staff and service recipients furnish posts on salient topics while growing the readership by importing their contacts. Again, content should be mobile-friendly.
- Social Media: Not only is social media arguably the most resonant content channel among millennials, notable for their social conscience and charitable support, but it costs little to implement. The most effective posts urge supporters to share with contacts. Post content should include program updates and successes, event notices, sponsor and volunteer recognition, calls to action and multiple links to other media channels.
Tools and Tips
Hone the Nonprofit’s Niche: A specialized niche designed to highlight the nonprofit’s unique mission and programmatic offerings attracts the most dedicated following across multi-media channels, as it allows nonprofits to establish expert status with less competition.
- Use SEO: Effective nonprofit marketing relies on search engine optimization (SEO), a broad set of techniques developed to maximize content visibility by achieving high-ranking search results. Expert nonprofit marketers are conversant with, at minimum, core SEO tactics.
- Network: Comprehensive nonprofit marketing campaigns don’t neglect traditional networking tactics. Instead, they recognize that networking on behalf of a nonprofit can be easier than a corporation. Networking with Chambers of Commerce, foundations that distribute grants within that nonprofit’s arena and large donors is crucial.
- Tell a Story: Marketers have long acknowledged the power of compelling narratives, and professional nonprofit marketers are no exception. Stories, whether about communities or individuals, induce new and established readerships alike. Nonprofits are nothing if not vehicles for change, and nonprofit stakeholders and supporters need nothing more than to hear its story.
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