5 Steps to Better Nonprofit Marketing Efforts

A Scripted Freelance Writer Writing Sample

Is your nonprofit succeeding at marketing itself, and achieving those other things that go along with effective marketing? The Web is the focus of most nonprofit marketing efforts, and some fundraising. This article offers tips for doing more online, without necessarily spending more time or money. You'll find descriptions of how to think about fundraising and marketing challenges, how to generate ideas, how to evaluate ideas, and how to implement ideas.

Step 1: Know the costs of your current efforts.

Money, staff time, and volunteer time all get invested whether a fundraising campaign or marketing effort works out. Do you know how much effort and money you invest in bringing people to your Web site? Do you know how much time you invest in Facebook every month?

Write down each marketing and fundraising activity your organization engages in. Do you have a Facebook page? Note how many hours a month you spend using Facebook to connect with people. If you put on an event to raise money and awareness, that event cost money, staff time, and volunteer time.

What was the total investment in your last event? You should end up with a list that looks like this (yours may be neater or messier):

  1. Facebook presence – 20 hours per month and $360 for staff time.

  2. July 4 fundraising party – 80 hours of staff time(costing $1920), 120 hours of volunteer time, $1500

  3. Web hosting and updating - $15/month (hosting), 8 hours of volunteer time per month

  4. Labor Day fundraiser – 40 hours of staff time (costing $960), 10 hours of volunteer time

As you look at new fundraising and marketing ideas, you will want to evaluate how many hours it will take and how much money needs to be invested. An idea that sounds great at first might take 100 hours and $4,000 to implement. Be sure you can realize a decent return on that investment.

After you've evaluated current projects and current ideas, you will turn your attention back to your organization's challenges.

Step 2: Systematically explore your marketing challenges.

Asking questions will yield a deeper understanding of the challenge, so spending some time on this step will yield big dividends. Ask these questions:

  1. Who – Who should work on this challenge?

  2. What – What should we focus on? What is the objective here?

  3. Where – Where (group or geographic area) should we focus our efforts?

  4. Why? – Why do we care about this challenge?

  5. When – When can we/should we take action?

  6. How? – How can we make the most impact with our limited resources?

Author Michael Michalko encourages readers to think more broadly about addressing a challenge by asking a question that begins "In what ways might I…" and seeing where that answer leads. "In what ways might I work to reduce fossil fuel use in the United States?"

Step 3: Look for ideas you can borrow.

Always be on the hunt for fundraising and marketing ideas. How often do you specifically look for ideas you can appropriate and use in your organization? And how often do you write down those ideas and your thoughts on them? Businesses use quite a few marketing tools that nonprofits rarely, if ever, use. Creatively use the same tools companies use to market their products, but that aren't widely used by nonprofits now:

  1. Newspaper boxes – Distribute free information and put your name and URL on the outside

  2. Vending machines – Sell products to generate revenue or just to stir interest in a cause

  3. Mobile apps – Could you create one that will help people and somehow promote your cause?

An environmental organization could use all three of those tools to promote recycling. Newspaper boxes could display the organization's name, URL and mission statement on the outside. Instead of newspapers, the box would contain information about recycling. Many combinations and variations of those ideas are also possible. Take a few minutes to think about a new variation on one of those ideas. Do that right now, and write down your results.

Step 4: Brainstorm, and write down all of your ideas.

Random input is a surprisingly powerful technique for generating ideas. Several variations of the random input technique exist. Random input is simply a way of forcing a comparison between your challenge and some thing or process that's randomly selected, and completely unrelated. Think about that random thing, and list the features, or characteristics of that random stimulus. Then you look for connections between the items on that list and your challenge.

Don't intentionally look for a word, item, or photograph that you think will spark ideas. You may not be able to break out of your habitual way of thinking and only get ideas that are neither particularly inventive nor especially valuable. Pick a random activity and list the features, attributes, and associations that the selected activity brings to mind. Make a list of about 30 activities to play with, then select one based on the day of the month. Try to find a connection, however tenuous, between grocery shopping and your challenge.

Step 5: Systematically evaluate your ideas.

Estimate the costs and benefits of each promising idea. Once you know how much your staff costs you, how much you can spend on marketing, and how many labor hours are likely to be needed, it takes just a few minutes to calculate a cost.That recycling fundraiser sounded like a pretty good idea.. If you can expect to raise $2,000 - $3,000 from an investment of 100 labor hours and $1,000 of advertising, is that good? A quick analysis might reveal that the return will not be good.Free publicity, like press coverage, might change the equation. Here is where the non-profit executive's judgment comes into play. Is the public relations value the recycling event enough to make up for the likelihood that the event won't really make money?

Chester D

Nashville, Tennessee, United States •

I am a Web writer, blogger, and social scientist who has written thousands of pages of Web content on a range of business, science, and nonprofit topics. I've also self-published two books on brainstorming and structured problem solving tactics for activists and nonprofit staff - The Creative Activism Guide and The Creative Activism Toolkit. If you need a writer who understands natural science, social science, politics, or statistics I can handle your writing project. As a contract writer or volunteer I have written fundraising copy and grant proposals for economic development and conservation charities. Last but not least, I also write science fiction and dark fantasy, screenplays and short stories.to be specific. I have also written hundreds of blog posts on legal, marketing, and nonprofit topics for BlogMutt and TextBroker clients.

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