You are proud of your nonprofit – it’s been around a while and although you face challenges, overall you remain stable and strong. But sometimes you wonder if you're current in this digital age we live in. After all, it's very easy to get lost in all the advances of the world – particularly when it comes around to connecting with Millennials. You hear about a new social media platform, a new metrics tool and a new marketing method, and ask yourself if you should try some of these out.
Well, I’m here to tell you, it is still "old school" wisdom that prevails if you want to be an effective marketer. These are the ideas that have been around since Barnum & Bailey times and perfected through the "Mad Men" era.
When we get caught up in the non-stop, unrelenting hype (and yes even for marketing communications veterans like us), I sometimes need to close my office door, put my cell phone on mute and re-read this manifesto for the gazillionth time. Without fail, it grounds me and gets me back to my purpose as a results-driven communicator. ( Isn’t that what you want for your non-profit?)
1. Know Thy Stakeholder. To market effectively, you must completely understand your organization's funders, supporters and prospects. Because if you don't know their needs, how can you possibly market the benefits of their supporting your organization.
So ask a lot of questions. Do market research if necessary. You will discover so many viable and cost-efficient solutions to help you research and promote on the web. Find out what kind of outcomes are important to your stakeholders? Changing behavior? Educating your target audience? Engaging the community? All of the aforementioned? These questions and their answers are often revealed through a marketing planning process that gets everyone on the same page.
Bottom line: You cannot expect to succeed if you don't know how your stakeholders will gauge success.
2. Be Certain About Your Strengths. This requires brutal honesty. Know without a doubt what makes your organization invincible. Evaluate its strengths. Evaluate them as if you were a prospective funder or donor. Is your mission significantly different than others in your niche? Do you have a loyal and unwavering base? Do you have you victories in achieving important outcomes? If unsure, an easy way is to ask current supporters what they find most appealing about your staff and organization.
3. Be Certain About Your Weaknesses. More brutal honesty is required here. Realize where you are not as effective as you want to be. What are you doing to change that perception? Nothing can lead to a less than stellar reputation by not knowing where your weaknesses lie and what you're doing to overcome them.
4. Understand the Organizations You Compete Against for Grant Dollars. Don't fear your competitors. Respect them. Understand where they are strong and why. By knowing what your fellow nonprofits stand for, it will be easier to brand what you and your organization stand for in your market. And it should definitely be a voice and narrative no one else owns.
5. Stand for Something. After completing these first business essentials, you should have clearer understanding of what your nonprofit can represent as its core brand to your donors, supporters and volunteers. Is it the more experienced and knowledgeable staff? Or the organization with the strongest donor base? Orsimply the only entity working toward your cause and creating successful outcomes?
Ask the question: what is the emotion and value that your organization alone brings to your stakeholders? If a clear idea doesn't emerge, sift through your research again. Regroup with your Board around a strategic planning process. You will undoubtedly find a position your organization can own.
6. Demonstrate Value To Your Stakeholders. Help them understand that regardless of what your cause is, you provide exceptional value in the work you're doing. Your make every dollar do the work of five or ten. You're making strides each day toward the cause or mission you support. It is your job to develop a voice and narrative about the kind of value your organization delivers and the outcomes you achieve.
7. Be Certain Your People Have the Religion. Once you've developed your position, make sure your staff knows it as well. A consistent image and narrative to stakeholders not only applies to your marketing communications. It also applies to the people working to deliver on that mission. Remember: they are your ambassadors and are marketers too. From top to bottom, every member of your team should understand the differences of your organization and why they matter.
8. Speak with a Consistent Voice. This is an extension of number six. Only it carries over into all your communications. When everything is seen and evaluated---from blog and social posts to white papers and website content---funders, supporters, volunteers and prospects should get the feeling your messaging is consistent.
9. Give Your Stakeholders a Learning Path. Are you educating and informing your funders, supporters and prospects about what your organization is doing to meets its goals? Don't keep it a mystery. The more they understand the processes you go through to achieve outcomes, the stronger perception they have of your organization.
10. Never Take Things for Granted. You may need to change your strategy, or you may decide to stay the course. Just remember marketing is not a static process but a dynamic one, which can flex given external or internal variables or an unforeseen event. It could be in the form of a new competitor, world event, economic downturn, departure of a key employee, or some other unforeseen challenge.
Think about the scenarios that might happen to you. Be prepared for how you might proceed given such scenarios. Or find very good counsel that can help you through it all.