Yes, non-profits need to have a marketing strategy – not the dark arts kind of marketing, but the capital M kind of marketing. If you're an executive with a non-profit you need to define the audience with whom you want to connect, work to understand their needs, and leverage your strengths to meet those needs better than anyone else. That's marketing.
What is your mission and core values?
This is extremely important and its the first place I look to get to know an organization. This is the place that donors look to see if the organization's values line up with their own values. So make sure you've thought deeply about these questions and gone through some sort of process to get them on paper.
Who are your key stakeholders?
In a business, we would ask, "Who are your target customers?" The question can be trickier for a non-profit. You've built an organization that meets the need of a specific group, that's the field – the people whose lives you want your organization to have an impact on. It's your passion. It's probably why you started down this path in the first place. But they aren't the only people you should be thinking about. You need help.
You might need volunteers, champions for the cause who are going to tell their friends and neighbors about your organization and how it's making the world just a little bit better. And you probably need funders. They are the people who want the organization to succeed and are willing to invest their money to see that it does.
There are other possibilities too. If you have employees, they are definitely key stakeholders in the organization. Your board of directors are a mix of volunteer and funder. And depending on what your field is, you might need to cultivate relationships with community leaders, politicians, certain business owners who can, at the very least, avoid making it harder for you to accomplish your mission.
All of these groups are stakeholders that you need for your non-profit to succeed. They all play a part. What's most important for you to know is that each group has a unique set of needs and desires that you are going to be responsible to fulfill. How are you going to create value for each of them? That's what marketing is, and that's why you need to sit down and think deeply about your marketing strategy.
How are you creating value for your stakeholders?
When you've made a list of all of your unique stakeholders, start thinking about what they want from the organization. One type of volunteer might be seeking to connect with the poor, or participate in building up their own neighborhood. Another type of volunteer may be looking for a way to get their kids involved in something other than video games and social media so they need family friendly volunteer opportunities.
And what about all of the different types of donors you have. There's the donor that's passionate about your cause, the donor that's connected with you personally, and the donor that's tired of investing money into corporate stocks that do little to change people's lives. These are all variations on a stakeholder who requires you to meet their expectations. If you haven't thought about what those expectations are, you're going to have a harder time meeting them by accident.
To be continued
This is a start. It's how I would start if given the chance to market any non-profit. There's a lot more to talk about – more questions to answer when developing a strategy to market a non-profit organization. I'm sure I'll get to those questions in another post. So stay tuned.