A guide to marketing for non-profit organizations

Text by Teodora Teodorescu

When it comes to investing in an activity that is based on charity income, most non-governmental organizations cannot afford to have extended marketing budgets or do not have them at all. Not to mention that often the marketing person is the content creator, the communication person to redirect inquires and the wizard behind the social media platforms to get the most out of the content posted.

Marketing for the third sector institutions can actually be easier than branding for a service or a product: you already have the cause to fight for and the beneficiaries. There is, however, a lot of competition in this branch when it comes to attracting donors and volunteers, and having a well-structured brand will come in hand. In this sense, a non-profitable organization acts like a company, so why not also act like one when it comes to branding and “selling” your cause?

In order to be more efficient, start by making a plan:

First, gather people in a focus group, those full of ideas and well informed about your organization, but realistic enough to find short-cuts. Brainstorm why and what you need to promote and write everything down: is it an event you plan to host? Or maybe a long-term exchange? Or you want to raise awareness in general?

Whatever you identify as being relevant, next step would be to screen for your resources, being it money, leftovers from past campaigns, barter deals you could get from partners or people who can borrow what you need. Again, write them down and make sure they are easy to track, alphabetically or in order of importance. Look for external opportunities, such as the 8-hours-after-work events, where full-time employed experts volunteer to help NGOs in their respective field of interest.

Third, make sure you target correctly. Addressing to volunteers, facilitators and youth workers requires drawing on gains such as the opportunity to give back to the society, help others in need, adding value to your free time and engaging in fun and informative actions that bring the change to the world. One of the best tools to use in this situation is storytelling, on which you can read extensively on our website.

Addressing to donors, philanthropists and businesses requires different style and tools. When contributors and businesses invest in any type of charitable work, they want to see exactly how their money is going to influence the cause you promote. Think about creative ways to show how their investment reaches the end users, with you as an enabler. Take them through a guided tour of your achievements and back up everything with concrete data, facts and studies. Take into account that businesses invest a lot of effort and resources into CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities and other social causes, which is why you need to talk business to them.

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Next, you want to set your goals. This won’t be the only marketing campaign, so you’d better collect as much information as you can, to figure out what went well and what (hopefully not) went wrong with each of the targeted group. You can make use of the SMART goals tool to sketch an outcome, for example “in the next 3 months, we will increase by 50% the number of blog subscribers by increasing our Facebook content from 2 blog posts per month to 1 blog post per week”. If you feel your goal is too ambitious or generic, try pairing it with the Goal Pyramid, where you basically unpack it into smaller milestones and categories them by urgency.

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Once you settle on the ‘who’ and the ‘how’, you can concentrate on the ‘what’, the message you send, targeting your groups in order to achieve the desired goals. Keep it clear, simple and uniform throughout all means of interaction. If a potential volunteer asks information about your NGO, the persons in charge of social media platforms, answering the phone and e-mails or any other volunteers should have the same core message.

In connection to the message and its form, consider both the printed and online materials as well. Before printing anything, please regard the environmental aspect and the impact it has on your audience. If you prefer the online version which is more eco-friendly, there are tons of how-to guides for anything you can imagine doing. One of the best I recently stumbled upon is the grant from Google that offers a limited budget for NGOs to spend on PPC (pay-per-click) in Google Ads. If you think of content, videos are on a raising trend, so make use of the free video editors, such as DaVinci Resolve.

Last, but not least: feedback. In anything that you do, ask for feedback: either stereotypically sitting with a cup of tea and analyze what are the lessons or if you have the possibility, asking the persons involved for a short review, a few lines to give you an idea about the impact your campaign generated. Keep it safe and start your next campaign with these feedbacks.

Now you are ready! Remember, in a nutshell, what the outcome is: trustworthy, transparent, accountable and focused campaigning leads to a strong NGO.

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