In working with many non-profit organizations over the years, our key learnings include the importance of thinking and acting strategically, having a true marketing/outreach plan that you commit to, and designing a measurable quarterly “playbook” to keep that plan moving along on track.
A good marketing plan begins with creating a singular and immediately understandable brand identity around which to anchor all of your outreach efforts. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Figure out your core mission and focus all of your messaging around that. Answer the question of what would be missing within our community and what important needs would go unmet without the work of your organization?
Some critical elements of a meaningful, actionable marketing plan for non-profit organizations include the following:
· Prioritize your goals for the year and be very specific in terms of how you communicate them. For instance, everyone wants to “raise awareness” for their organization, but what do you plan to accomplish once your awareness is raised?
· Refine your marketing plan objectives using the SMART model: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
· Determine who your key audiences really are. Who responds best to your mission? Then target those particular audiences to the exclusion of all others. You probably don’t have the resources to reach everyone, so focus your marketing efforts where you have the most likelihood of success. Create the exact persona of who you want to reach and then craft messages which will appeal to and connect with that specific person.
· Be sure your messages are truly compelling. Do they make the people you want to reach take action (i.e., give money, attend an event, commit volunteer time, etc.)?
· Choose the right platform for your message dissemination. Assuming you do not have unlimited resources, do enough research to determine where your key audiences “live and breathe” and then show up where they are.
· Stop depending on events as your primary source of funding. They are expensive, and your donor base is probably exhausted by the sheer number of community events they are invited to. If you do sponsor some kind of “signature event,” make sure it is unique, well-planned, and appeals to your particular donor base. Also be sure to keep your expenses in line with your budget, in order to actually make a good return on your investment (i.e., a reasonable, achievable profit).
After you have crafted your annual marketing plan, you can then put together a quarterly “playbook,” which will ensure that you stick to your plan and accomplish your intended objectives. Your playbook will do the following:
· Track your activities and expenditures against your annual goals.
· Determine a logical breakdown of those goals and activities into manageable, measurable pieces which allow you to focus your attention and resources on the specific things you must accomplish that quarter in order to be successful.
· Ideally, your playbook would focus on 3-5 key activities, which, if accomplished during that quarter, will measurably move the needle in terms of achieving your overall annual goals. It will keep you from venturing “off the reservation,” and allowing yourself to be distracted by time-sapping activities which don’t contribute to your stated and most important objectives.
Marketing success for non-profit organizations is determined in large part by a disciplined approach to planning, smart audience targeting, crafting messages which are truly compelling, and measuring your success against stated goals every step of the way.

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