There is a common misconception that nonprofits can operate in a vacuum without putting much time and effort into developing a sound business strategy. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like any other business, a nonprofit must work to attract new customers—in some ways, they must work even harder to attract supporters and donors who can help drive the organizational mission forward.
Simultaneously, many nonprofits also worry about spending a large portion of their resources on overhead. Here are four strategies that nonprofit managers can use to market their organizations without draining precious financial resources.
1. Keep detailed records
For a variety of reasons, many smaller nonprofits often try to overlook this vital step. Don’t make that mistake. If you don’t have the skills and knowledge to develop financial statements like a balance sheet and nonprofit chart of accounts, don’t panic. There are great software programs that can help or outsource the work to an independent finance professional.
Accurate records are essential for several reasons. First, they let you know what resources you have to work with. This can help you avoid developing a perfect marketing plan that doesn’t fit your organizational budget. Records also let you track what is working—and what isn’t. That is crucial for making changes to strategies you are already using and knowing when to scrap them for something completely new. It also lets you know if you are moving successfully toward your mission-driven goals. Plus, once you know what you have to work with, you can start developing a sound marketing strategy.
2. Develop strong marketing materials
With the population suffering from information overload, your message can easily get lost in the mix. Work to develop a recognizable brand image. If your organization does not have a dedicated marketing or art department, consider hiring a local graphic artist. You might also want to check with local design schools to see if any students are interested in an internship or side project. No matter who develops your new brand identity, try to keep designs simple and straightforward and avoid adding unnecessary information in your communications. Instead, provide the opportunity for people to interact with your organization to learn more.
You should also start compiling a strong portfolio of marketing materials that consistently continue this design and theme. A few examples of materials you will want to focus on include:
- Thank you notes
- A Website
- Business cards
3. Maximize social media exposure
A successful social media strategy can provide more exposure than almost any other platform. Social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram harness the power of already established relationships to distribute information. You should aim for a presence on at least one or two of the biggest platforms. Keep in mind that more isn’t always better here. It is important to keep your social media presence to a level that you can maintain. You’ll need to provide updates to each site daily, and more often in some cases.
Many businesses use their social sites to share basic information about hours, happenings, and special events. That is fine, but it should not be your only focus. Try to share successes and special cases from your organization’s work on these channels, too. Emotions often prompt action and feel-good stories can draw a lot of attention and shares.
4. Create strategic partnerships
Community connections are essential for many nonprofit companies. A community can be defined in several ways, but yours should focus strongly on who you intend to serve. These relationships allow you to collaborate on larger projects that you might not be able to take on alone. They also give you access to knowledge and other resources that each agency has. Religious organizations, educational institutions and other, similarly-aligned non-profits are prime examples of organizations you can work with.
It is possible to market a nonprofit organization without significantly contributing to overhead costs. Get a clear picture of your finances and develop a strong brand before you do anything else. Then use social media and partnerships to increase exposure and awareness of your mission.