Recently I spoke with a woman who wanted to increase awareness of her nonprofit. “Sara” spoke with passion about all the good work her organization does, but complained that no one knows about them. (Another one of those “best kept secret” organizations!)
Sara mentioned several ideas she wants to implement to promote her nonprofit, and I asked if she had a marketing plan in place. She said she did not, partly because she knows what she wants to do, and partly because she has neither the time to write it herself nor the money to hire someone else to do so.
Do you see any red flags? If not, let me suggest an analogy.
When you go to see a doctor with an ailment, the provider will ask you many questions. She’ll start by reviewing your medical history, and will probably measure your temperature and blood pressure. She might also order some blood work or an X-ray, if appropriate. After the doctor analyzes the results of these tests, she diagnoses your problem — or, if the results are inconclusive, she might recommend more tests. In any case, she would not prescribe any medication or treatment without first doing the diagnosis.
We’ve all been to the doctor and experienced a similar methodical, logical process. By looking at Sara’s nonprofit through this lens, it’s clear that she was skipping all of the evaluation, analyzing, testing and diagnosing … and jumping right into the “prescription.” Her marketing remedy might solve her organization’s ailment, but more likely, it will not.
Instead, she should start by diagnosing the problem. At a minimum, she needs to identify her nonprofit’s specific audiences and the messages that will best appeal to them. She needs to know why people would care about her organization, and why they would want to become involved with it. In short, she needs to analyze, evaluate and diagnose the situation before she prescribes any marketing remedies.
In addition to providing such valuable insights, developing a marketing plan helps you:
1. Get everyone in your organization on the same page. You want everyone on staff to be focused clearly on the same goals that are stated in your mission statement. This answers the basic question of why your organization does what it does. Your marketing, communications and fundraising always tie back to your mission.
2. Identify your target audience(s). You need to recognize those groups of people who comprise your audience and how best to reach them. Audiences can be divided into several groups or demographics. By addressing your audience as a collection of distinct groups, you can ensure that the right message reaches the right audience.
3. Clarify what differentiates you from others. A key point of your marketing plan is to establish a unique positioning for your organization so that you are distinct in the minds of your supporters and donors.
4. Focus your resources. Most nonprofits work with limited staff and shoestring budgets. Be clear and methodical on what you want your marketing to accomplish. You can save time and money by budgeting and allocating your resources to address the most important priorities in your plan.
5. Provide a clear direction. A plan keeps you organized and on track. To provide maximum value, a plan needs to be written down, because the process of planning and articulating goals and tactics helps you focus your efforts and improve your ability to reach your goals. Review the plan throughout the year to track milestones and metrics, and make any necessary adjustments.
Your nonprofit ’s marketing plan is like your own personal wellness plan: it keeps you on track, gives you direction, helps you focus on the big picture and prevents you from worrying about how you’re going to get where you’re going. Sounds like a good prescription to me!