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Setting up a Non-Profit for Success: Marketing Basics

In the olden days, non-profit organizations were run by “do-gooders”, people with a belief that things should be better or different, people with a passion to help others, change and change the world – radicals even!  Today, while non-profits are still started and run by people with a belief and a passion, today’s non-profit needs to be savvy – savvy in terms of technology, savvy in terms of being in touch with the market, savvy in knowing who their donors are and how to reach them.

In those olden days, the business of running a non-profit had a bad rap; words like “marketing” and “database” were considered foul words spread by the big for-profit bullies.  Today however, if you look at any successful non-profit organization, not only do they use words like “marketing”, they actually have an established marketing budget. They will also have a donor tracking database, Excel charts and brochures.

Whether you are just starting a non-profit or have been around for a while, but are not quite achieving your goals, now is the time to revisit the business of non-profits.  Running your non-profit as a business should in no way negate or detract from your goal. Truly marrying the two – a non-profit vision, with flexibly business strategies – should create a successful foundation for accomplishing your goals and meeting your vision. The business techniques utilized by non-profit agencies should serve as tools, building blocks in helping you and your organization achieve your goals.

One of the first areas that should be considered is Marketing, Image and Reputation.  While again these were once the words of the big for-profit bullies, today, you need to make friends with them.

•    Marketing is a process by which non-profit organizations communicate and connect with new and existing donors, volunteers, and the people you serve, the purpose of which is to drive awareness, increase funding opportunities, raise partnering potential and drive attention to your message, mission or activities.  For-profit and non-profit organizations may share many of the same marketing activities – newsletters, promotional items (bracelets, articles of clothing, pens, etc. with the non-profit name and/or logo and contact information), advertising, events, etc.

•    Image – Something one remembers or imagines.  While not as easily defined, an image is the mental picture and feelings evoked when someone (potential donor, community member, official) thinks or hears about your organization – an impression.  This is usually more singular and at the emotional and “gut-level.”

•    Reputation – an opinion (social evaluation) of the public of your organization.  An organization’s reputation may be considered by grantors, benefactors, potential partners and the community at large – may include the intent of your organization, considerations of trust, seriousness about your stated mission, organizational competence, etc.  The reputation of an organization may have far reaching implications.

In looking at your image and reputation – the impression you give people who have not had direct contact with you (yet!), some things you might want to think about or consider:

•    Does your name reflect your organization? Does it give people insight into what you do or who you are? Is it catchy / memorable?
•    Do you have a tagline or short (3-8 word) phrase that summarizes your organization’s intent, purpose or your mission? Again, it is catchy / memorable?
•    Logistics: Do you have business cards? A website? Easily and readily available contact information?

Make yourself noticeable – stand out from the rest, but always keep in mind that having a “professional” or no-nonsense look and feel is important for attracting donors, volunteers and community interest!

Posted in Business Development, starting a non-profit.

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