A NONPROFIT’S FAMOUS LAST WORDS “WE DON’T DO MARKETING”
The Marketing = Sales + Advertising Myth
CONFRONTING THE MISCONCEPTION
As a marketer who largely supports the nonprofit community, I often get resistance from nonprofit leadership when the term “marketing” comes up. The greatest barrier to providing stellar support to nonprofits in need of amplification is the misunderstanding of the field of marketing for nonprofit organizations.
It is a widely held belief that marketing is advertising or sales, which admittedly, is not a comfortable space for individuals who work in the nonprofit sector - so, let’s do a reframe! Marketing is not simply advertising and sales. Sure, this can be a component of the field, but it is not everything a marketing consultant can support. Within the field also lives so many other dynamic aspects of marketing that ANY business, including a nonprofit, does need in order to raise widespread community awareness, understanding, and attract customers/client/patients/families/etc.
As a marketer with a dual masters in social work, I see the field of marketing as a way to use psychology and storytelling to amplify the mission of a nonprofit’s work. I use my deep knowledge of people to engage a nonprofit’s target demographic and connect the organization’s mission to the individual’s needs and/or interest. It is important for an organization to confront the misconception of marketing as a bad word, when in truth, holistic marketing encompasses so much more than advertising and sales, including:
Search Engine Marketing
Website Design and Management
… and so much more!
BUT WHAT ABOUT ORGANIC WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING?
Let’s start with the definition:
Word-of-mouth marketing (WOM marketing) is when a consumer's interest in a company's product or service is reflected in their daily dialogues. Essentially, it is free advertising triggered by customer experiences.
In short, yes, if you are a nonprofit that has been in the community for a decent number of years, you will survive through word-of-mouth marketing. Additionally, any organization that does good work and supports individuals in need is going to experience some amount of organic marketing from the individuals who have been served.
However, no organization should rely simply on word-of-mouth for their complete marketing strategy. Word-of-mouth marketing is but a spoke on the complete wheel of a solid marketing strategy, but the other spokes do not need to be advertising and sales if that is not the focus of your organization. A good marketing team will identify the areas of your organization that need the most amplification and be able to associate several marketing strategies – with data to support these efforts – that will assist in attracting your target audience, including clients, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders who have not yet been engaged.
WHERE TO START
Based on my time within the nonprofit sector, the fact that you are here reading this article means you have already recognized that your nonprofit may need a coherent marketing strategy, but are unsure how to create one. My biggest message is DON’T GUESS. Marketing is an art form. Yes, anyone can throw somethin
g on a canvas and hope that it sticks, however artists with more expertise and experience will be able to strategically place work on a canvas with a plan in mind and a road to help your organization achieve its goals.
The issue that nonprofit organization often run into, especially in 2022, is finding funding available to support a marketing effort. It often seems that there are better ways to allocate spending, especially when the mission serves disenfranchised groups. The goal is shifting the budgetary mindset from short-term needs to long-term needs for an organization, and remembering that marketing is not a luxury, it is a necessity for long-term sustainability and growth.
When funding is set aside for strategic marketing that engages the community and attracts long-term donors, an organization will begin to see the benefit of a savvy investment in their mission.
CONSULTANTS VERSUS FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES
Once leadership has decided that marketing support is needed, the question may arise whether to create a space for full-time employees within the organization, or to hire consultants and freelancers to complete the work by contract. Unfortunately, there is no answer that fits each organization equally. However, when an organization begins with hiring a consultant or freelance marketer, they always have the option of hiring someone in-house after seeing the benefit of focused support. When an organization decides to dive in head first with a full-time employee, it is far more difficult to walk that choice back.
As a marketing consultant myself, I have seen the pendulum swing both ways following a successful contract. Each organization must weigh the option for their own mission and work culture to find a balance that fits them best.
If you are interested in pursuing marketing support for your nonprofit, please visit our website and schedule a discovery call today!