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When marketing a non-profit, there are really two goals that you are trying to accomplish. I hear them re-worded a hundred different ways, but there are really only two. First, you want to drive awareness and activism. Now that may mean membership, high turnout at events, press visibility, etc., but it all boils down to spreading the importance of your cause. Second, you have to raise funds. Anyone in a charity knows the costs involved with setting up events, printing and mailing, and simply sustaining the organization. This is hard work and, to be effective, must be done non-stop. In fact, any objective of a non-profit should have one (or both) of the aforementioned two goals in mind in order for it to remain relevant and successful.
With that said, how can you effectively market a non-profit in ways that better support these two goals? Here are some ideas:
1. Simplify your cause. All non-profits have an emotional tie; it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a business-focused, family-focused, or animal-focused one. Therefore, it stands to reason that emotions become diluted when a mission is over-explained. Let’s take the ASPCA, for instance. People love animals (most, anyway), and don’t want to accept that shelters need to put down strays to be sustainable. Their marketing is simple, and their message is very emotional. All other major charities work the same way. By simplifying your message, you mainstream your cause, which expands your reach.
2. Become an integral part of the solution. The American Cancer Society does more than spread awareness and educate the public; they also work to provide funding opportunities for cancer patients, and have enormous in-house research staff that help advance the discovery of treatments. By not just sitting on the sidelines and advocating, but by taking the initiative to be the ones to solve the problem, the American Cancer Society is more viable, relevant and the largest source of innovation for the education and even the treatment of cancer.
3. Stay true to your cause while fundraising. A couple years ago, I attended fundraiser for a charity that provides inner-city children with an alternative to getting into trouble in the afternoons by providing an after-school community center. Being a strong advocate of children-focused charities, I was glad to be there. However, the venue was out of the city, at a much nicer venue than those inner-city children would ever be found. The food was extravagant and the entertainment was over-the-top. This didn’t have any resemblance to the cuase whatsoever. Instead, if they had held an open house at the community center and were able to immerse the potential donors in their daily work, the message would have been clearer and it would have been far less expensive, which provide greater benefit to what have been their two primary goals.
Being a successful non-profit requires an unrelenting focus on your cause, and a passion for building support and funds to affect that cause. While these ideas will help organizations across the spectrum, it’s important to work with a marketing firm to determine what would benefit your unique situation.