It is hard to believe that anyone on the face of the earth would fail to recognize at least one of them. They come in the form of service clubs, societies, funds, religions, foundations, and associations, to name just a few. Unlike “for-profit” businesses, the organization’s goal is not to make money from selling a product or service, but rather to provide solutions to communal problems for free, or at the very least, at a reduced cost. While “free” may be seen as a “four-letter word” by a capitalist, the word to a non-profit is often the most desirable end to its means. Regardless of the differences, both are in business and share similar challenges in the marketing and distribution of a product, service, or cause. “A solid understanding of traditional marketing techniques is as essential for marketing a nonprofit as it is for marketing a for-profit business.”
More than 1.5 million non-profits, or 501(c)(3) organizations, exist in the United States accounting for 5-10% of the nation’s economy. The sector employs approximately 12 million people. Nearly 48% of non-profit revenues are derived from membership fees and the sale of goods and services in addition to charitable contributions. While wildly varied in mission and purpose, every non-profit is competing with for-profit and other non-profit businesses for the share of a finite amount of dollars. Despite the similarities, many charitable operating boards fail to understand the importance of multichannel marketing and focus marketing efforts on the organization’s very costly Annual Report. Joe Pulizzi, a marketing and communications entrepreneur says, “It doesn’t make me want to give money knowing what they spent on that.”
An effective marketing strategy for a not-for-profit business is focused on building relationships. “People are really looking for something more than a transaction,” said Michael Wagner, Co-Founder of Omnia Family Wealth. “It’s about building a partnership based on a relationship. People used to be OK with just giving the money and being done with it, but that isn’t the case anymore.” For charities that rely significantly on donations to support the mission, the COVID-19 pandemic took a particular toll on revenues in 2020. The Salvation Army reported an 18% drop in contributions over the previous year. Developing an effective message and telling a compelling story has never been more important for charitable organizations.
With so many non-profits doing business in the country, connecting a meaningful message with an audience can be daunting. While many non-profits may deal with complex and difficult issues, keeping the message simple and focused on a specific goal will attract the most interest. Focus the message on the importance of a timely solution, be specific in the goals, and objectives and perhaps most important, call for action. Social media channels are highly effective in building relationships. So, which social media platforms are best for communicating and building trust with consumers?
The same marketing fundamentals that apply to a profit-based business also apply to charitable organizations. Target a specific audience or consumer niche, formulate a personal, and authentic message and choose the social media platform(s) frequented most by the targeted audience. Some organizations’ efforts center around a specific mission; like health-related services and research programs for specific disease prevention and treatments. Others will appeal to a much broader market and require multiple channels to be most effective. A well-developed and creative website is critical. Investing in a professional, user-friendly, and comprehensive website will pay dividends.
Directors of non-profit or charitable organizations are dedicated, generous people who are committed to providing much-needed services to deserving populations. The altruistic nature of the mission often takes precedence over best-demonstrated business practices, but with more than 1.5 million organizations competing in a market for a finite amount of money, a meaningful and effective marketing strategy is necessary to maintain and expand charitable services now and into the future.
Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) has significant experience in helping non-profits and charitable organizations achieve the mission. To learn more about Junction’s unique qualifications, call 678-686-1125 today.