Navigating your non-profit organizations (NPO) marketing strategy is very much like sailing a boat upstream with makeshift oars searching for salmon. You know that the direction you are going is correct, but unfortunately, because of a lack of resources, getting up the river is going to be difficult and rocky.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Non-profit organizations are notorious for doing a subpar job of marketing themselves due to a number of reasons including lack of budget, a part-time staff, or even a lack of general business/marketing acumen.

Many small non-profit groups around the world are doing an amazing job of telling their story while keeping with their cause, which is the ultimate objective. Like a for-profit business, an NPO needs to strategically have a proactive marketing plan that is as efficient as it is effective.

When crafting your marketing and brand strategy, it is best to pay attention to the difference between an overall brand strategy (where are we now, where do we want to go) versus a marketing plan (the tactical executions on the day-to-day to ensure the overall objective is met).

Bill Harding, President of the non-profit group SDEAG – The San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild, gives some great insight on the differences and similarities between a brand strategy and marketing plan. Having a solid foundation is paramount to promote, not the other way around.

“Marketing works for specific projects and events, and needs to be consistent with the image and character of the nonprofit. When coupled with promotion that highlights the essential purpose of the nonprofit,  good marketing celebrates both the project/event and the heart of the organization. That increases the odds of making a meaningful impression on the targeted audiences.” – Bill Harding, President of SDEAG – The San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild

So how can you put these ideas into practice for your NPO?

Here are 5 ways you can better market your non-profit organization:

  1. Don’t just have a mission statement, have a brand promise that truly speaks to your audience. Like building a company, your non-profit organization needs to stand on a solid foundation in order to live up to it’s mission statement and survive.
  2. Know who you are marketing too. Your audience is two fold, those who you want to help (the cause) and those who are going to help fund your cause (the drivers). Learn about them, celebrate them, and use them to help market.
  3. Create a Brand Ambassador program that works. Like stated above, when we can celebrate our audience, we invite them into our “family”, thus giving them a platform to stand on and be our voice. Peer to peer marketing works, and even though most NPO’s do not have a product to promote, the sheer idea of the cause is enough to stir emotions and have your audience willing to want to help spread the story.
  4. Engage in thought Leadership and content marketing. Be an authoritative figure on your cause and the floodgates will open up. This can be done by blogging, getting quotes in publications and speaking publicly on the subject. No better way to build trust and authority than when you are behind the podium or with a pen in your hand.
  5. Be a social storyteller. This was the magical element behind Kony 2012. They told a story that tugged on your emotions and invoked a feeling that only added to their cause. You told everyone you know about it and that allowed it to spread. Also, look at the ALS bucket challenge of 2014…Same point. Your NPO is no different. The story is the reason why you are working for them. Tell it in an effective way that can reach your audience and allow them the power to help.