Achieving the mission for a nonprofit organization is its highest priority. The mission defines the purpose of the organization and is the driving force that establishes goals, shapes strategy, and sets priorities for its key programs and initiatives. The mission drives the organization, but marketing helps to make it financially viable and sustainable.
A nonprofit tax designation for an organization does not imply that it is unprofitable. In fact, a nonprofit organization must generate a positive financial return in order to keep the doors open. Remember, there is no mission without margin. The organization must create and manage profitable relationships with its members, donors, or buyers of its products or services. Marketing is a critical function within a nonprofit organization that can help to create value for its “customers” – broadly including members, prospective members, and other critical audiences -- and generate a positive financial return for the organization.
Marketing in the commercial sector is about attracting new customers, keeping current customers, and continuing to provide value to those customers so that a company can create a substantial lifetime value from its customers. As with any enterprise, a nonprofit organization must be able to clearly assess the market opportunity, understand market needs, and deliver value to its constituencies or “customers” through a viable and sustainable business model.
It is important to be clear about who the customer of the organization is. Is it the member, the donors, strategic partners, and/or any other major source of revenue or income for the organization? The organization cannot exist without its “customers”, whether those customers are members or other key constituencies. It must define who the customer is, what their needs and wants are, and determine what customer problem the organization is trying to solve or benefit that it will provide.
The organization needs to ask the “right” questions about its ability to create value for its customers:
Does the organization have a clearly articulated mission statement that is embraced by the staff and other supporters?
What is unique about the organization and how is it pursuing its mission?
What is the Business Model? How will the organization make money? How will major programs and initiatives be funded?
What are the key revenue sources for the organization and how are they performing?
Does the organization have a Business Plan? A Strategic Plan? A Marketing Plan?
What products or services does the organization offer? At what price? How are they promoted, distributed, and supported?
The organization needs a Strategic Plan and a Marketing Plan to help achieve its mission and business goals. An effective marketing plan will help to identify specific market opportunities for the organization. The plan must:
Assess the market environment (e.g., market trends, political, economic, social factors)
Define the market needs and opportunities
Define the product, program, or service that will address a specific need
Determine the size of the market and how it is segmented (e.g., demographic, geographic, psychographic)
Identify the target market segments and the profile of the potential customer
Assess the competition
Develop the key marketing initiatives and programs
Define the success metrics, evaluation, and controls
Assess the risks and contingencies
Define the budget and timeline
Special emphasis must be placed on defining the marketing initiatives and programs. An integrated marketing program includes all elements of the Marketing Mix: details about the product or service that is being offered, pricing, distribution channels (or how the product or service will be delivered to the customer), and the promotion program.
Marketing Communications becomes the cornerstone of the marketing program. The Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program carefully blends advertising, promotions, direct and digital marketing, public relations, and personal selling to persuasively communicate the value proposition to the member and customer and help to build long-term relationships.
Today’s contemporary marketing methods place particular emphasis on Digital Marketing where technology plays a significant role in marketing the organization’s products and services. The fundamental elements of a digital marketing program include the organization’s website, email marketing programs, online advertising, social media program, mobile marketing, content marketing, video marketing, and ecommerce.
Developing an effective Digital Marketing plan and program requires a clear understanding of how the customers obtain and consume information. In today’s marketplace there is a wide array of digital media tools and programs available to the marketer. The way your customers use digital media will help to define the right mix of digital marketing tools for your marketing plan. For example, if your customers do not use Facebook, then you probably do not need to build a Facebook marketing program. If your organization has rich content resources, then perhaps you need to consider developing a content marketing program that can include content partnerships, webinars, and videos that will help develop the brand and establish the organization as a thought leader.
Understanding fundamental marketing concepts and how to effectively use contemporary marketing tools and programs will help the nonprofit organization pursue its mission and achieve its revenue goals and objectives.