Marketing for Non-Profits
Recently someone asked me how he could help the charities and service organizations here in town to get more awareness as to the causes and projects they are involved in, both locally and throughout the world. I am uniquely qualified to answer this question due to the work I continue to do in this area.
First, you will want to sit down with someone who represents the group you wish to help to make sure you are both on the same page. The first step in any proactive marketing plan is to assess the current state of marketing at the organization. Take a step back and discover what’s actually occurring — or not occurring — at your nonprofit. When I have done this with Rotary, for example, it was the current year’s president that I talked to first to get a feel for what is already in place. This gives you both an opportunity to discuss exactly what they would like for you to do. For two years in a row I got the word out about our annual luau fundraiser, while at other times I was sharing the overall message of the group.
Once you have established rapport with this person, take the time to meet with their entire board at the next meeting. Typically these are held monthly and you may ask to be put on the agenda to say a few words about what you will be doing. Listen carefully so that you will be aware of the people and the issues that are important to them around the help you will be providing.
Next, spend the time to learn more about the Mission and Vision of the group you will be assisting. This is usually available on their website, or in written materials they can provide for you to read. When I helped a non-profit that is involved in providing eyeglasses and eye surgery to people in third world countries as well as in the United States, I learned much about what they hope to achieve overall, both now and in the future. This made it much easier for me to craft some marketing materials that would make sense for both their immediate and long-term goals.
I also like to put in some volunteer hours with a group I know little about. Working side by side with others who are interested in the cause will help inform you as to how they can best be served. Ask two volunteers and two staff members, “What does our organization do? How are we different?” Recently I did this with a group that serves families living with a child who has cancer. Spending time with some of the parents, children, other volunteers, office staff, and board members gave me valuable insight into what needed to be accomplished.
Look at what they are already doing and have in place. This may include:
- Organizational website
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so forth)
- Paid advertising (Facebook ads, Google AdWords, print or online banner ads)
- Unpaid placements (Public Service Announcements)
- Communications (newsletter, e-newsletter, direct mail)
- Special events, Fundraisers, etc.
- Brochures and other printed publications
Finally, take the work you will do for charities very seriously. Even though it is typically not a paid position, you will want to give this work your best efforts so that everyone involved can see your dedication and commitment to the cause. Having a strong work ethic is also important, as that tells the world you care. This type of work may also lead to offers of paid positions, speaking engagements, and more over time. Even though these are “not for profit” organizations, the rules of business and marketing will still apply. Having someone like you work closely on their behalf will make a huge impact on everyone involved.
Becoming the “face” of the organization you are helping will make a difference for you within your community. I am regularly approached by strangers while out walking or shopping who have met me during a charity event for one group or another. This then affords me the opportunity to talk even more about the great work that group is doing.
You will learn so much about business, marketing, and public relations by helping groups to get the word out to the community. Use this as an opportunity to reach your own goals, and know that a win-win is always the best outcome.
Ask for help, stay focused and committed to the Mission of the non-profit, and stay in close communication with the group’s leaders. This could be the first step in making a name for yourself in your community that can spill over into what you are doing in your own business. Showing leadership skills and the willingness to take on challenges will serve you well for years to come.