Nonprofits don’t have the goal of making a profit, but they are still businesses for all that. The terminology is just a little more complicated. Instead of customers, the terms are donors, sponsors, volunteers and members. Also, people being people, persuading them to work with a nonprofit requires giving them information about why that is a good idea, along with some motivation and direction.

The people running nonprofits are often so busy making a difference in their communities, and are so accustomed to stretching their resources, that they ignore the very thing that would give them more cash to use: marketing. They see marketing as optional, even though it really is not, and they spend their cash accordingly. It is an unfortunate but understandable cycle.

The nonprofit mindset is a frugal one. That’s not bad; being frugal is always going to be one of the smartest ways to approach any budget. In the case of nonprofits, however, not allocating any money to administrative functions such as marketing is also a guaranteed way to hobble the nonprofit when it comes to generating the very revenue it has to have in order to survive. After all, no one would think of running a business without some form of marketing. Why should nonprofits be in a different category?

What’s the smart way for a nonprofit to implement a bare-bones marketing strategy?

  1. Create a plan. You wouldn’t build a house without one. The plan forces you to define the nonprofit’s goals in the most basic terms: who, what, where, when, and why. Writing a plan is cheap and it helps everyone understand the brand and see the vision of what the nonprofit can become. A plan is also a great way to make sure you aren’t just tacking together an unorganized and chaotic mess that won’t meet the need anyway. “Plan meet need” is the governing motto for debaters building a persuasive argument, and it turns out the same idea also works for creating a good marketing plan.
  2. Find the money. This is the hard part. Many people who run nonprofits just don’t see the value in spending money on anything other than the program. But how else are you going to reach the people who will support your program? Money spent on implementing a marketing plan allows you to identify the people who have money and are willing to give it. Then all you have to do is ask them for help by using the next step.
  3. Tell the nonprofit’s story. People’s brains are hardwired for stories. We understand, relate to, and remember beginnings, middles and ends. This is one area where nonprofits excel, because nobody else has stories as powerful, emotional, and geared to causing change as nonprofits. Nonprofits are the places where hungry people get a meal, homeless people get a bed in a warm, safe building, and those who are damaged by life get a chance to heal. Every nonprofit mission statement has an important story to tell. Doing that consistently and across every platform, including social media and print, is what makes the marketing plan work.

Your nonprofit will benefit from using sound marketing principles to increase available resources for programs. Do it right and you will see your nonprofit grow, which in turn means having the ability to make more of a difference in the world than would be possible otherwise.