Basic Marketing & Public Relations For Non-Profits

Marketing is a way of determining a particular need of a particular group of people and solving that need. It isn’t sales. Sales is a component of marketing. Marketing for nonprofits presents a special challenge because you typically have no tangible product. You are “selling” a warm fuzzy. So how do you market for nonprofits?

To effectively market your organization, you must first know a few things about yourself.

1. Determine what business you are in. Can you boil your mission statement down to something really short and sweet? For example, Habitat for Humanity is in the business of building decent, affordable homes for families in need.

2. Determine the key message(s) you want to get out. There’s probably one or two things that you really want to say to the public and to your target audience. Habitat may have a key message of “Everyone should have access to a decent, affordable home.”

3. Identify your target audience(s). There are probably a few specific groups of people that you want to reach with your key messages. For Habitat, churches are a target audience because they provide a lot of financial support and volunteers. And there may be other great target audiences for Habitat, too.

Once you are clear about yourself, your messages and your audience, you can put together a plan for marketing.

1. Position your organization. What is the thing you hang your hat on or differentiate yourself from other similar organizations? Are you the only one providing the service you provide? Have you been around the longest? Are you the best? Once you figure this out, you can use it in reaching out to your target audience.

2. Develop and implement a communications plan. How will you communicate with your target audience? What techniques will you use? How often will you communicate with them? These are questions you must wrestle with. Your newsletter, website, brochure, and annual report are all tools you can use for communicating with your target audiences.

Consider how you will work with the media as part of your communications plan. Think about the target audiences you want to reach and develop a list of appropriate media contacts. For example, you don’t need every reporter at the News Sentinel on your media list. You may only need the food section editor or the health section editor.

3. Determine how you will measure success. Are you looking for an increase in donors? An increase in donations? Being able to measure success will help you know when your marketing efforts are working.

Marketing isn’t something you can do once and forget about, so be prepared to work on your marketing and communications activities year-round.