Not-for-profit guide to marketing

Charities and not-for-profits (NFPs) operate in a challenging space; fishing in a small, overcrowded pond, often with limited resources, funds and competing demands.

Our Australian Director, Kirsty Visman, has worked with many not-for-profits and charities, helping them raise awareness and funds, and increase volunteers.

Despite the many differences between thousands of not-for-profits have operating throughout Australia, Kirsty says there are a few key marketing areas that, when addressed correctly, can determine the difference between success and failure.

Here’s her how-to marketing guide for not-for-profits:

1 Know your audience

Your audience is not a concrete, set-and-forget element of your marketing. The individuals you are seeking change constantly. They age, go through different life stages, change their media consumption habits, shift their loyalties and move into new areas. Organisations that understand this, and pivot accordingly, see greater growth and success.

One of our clients recently told me that their key audience is ‘empty nesters, aged 55+’, but that recently they’d seen a decline in this audience volunteering.

Today's 55-year-olds were born in 1964 and are still 10 years off retirement. They often have adult children living at home, or are seen as an affordable childcare option for their grandkids. Compared to previous generations, the nest is still very much full, and time for volunteering is scarce. You cannot rely on each generation to look and act the same as the one before.

2 Know who you are

Many NFPs are long-standing brands that have evolved over the years. These changes have brought new services and ways of working. The ability to concisely communicate who you are and what you do is vital. People need to know what makes you different, and the best. If your organisation has evolved, you need to ensure your brand evolves with it.

A simple way to test if your brand is doing the job of communicating your ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’, is to hold an internal survey asking staff to describe who your organisation is, in a single sentence. A strong and healthy brand will see very similar responses that define your mission. When you see a wild variation on this message, you might need an audit. Your people are your brand ambassadors, so it’s vital that they can communicate what makes your brand unique.

3 Be creative

The NFP and charity sector yields the most amount of noise and competition, making it harder than ever to stand out in your sector. You need to start thinking more creatively about how you share your message to cut through the noise and make an impact.

We helped our client, Key Assets, raise awareness of the need for more foster carers through our campaign ‘Can I Foster?’ which included a viral social experiment. We could have easily just issued a media release with the key messages and statistics, but we knew we had to think creatively to get the coverage and level of exposure we needed.

Including the creative aspect of the social experiment is what helped us secure more than 85 media articles, four TV features and more than a million video views on social media. Most importantly, it resulted in thousands of enquiries from people interested in becoming foster carers. Thinking more creatively about how you share your messages is the key to powerful results.

4 Make your marketing work

It’s not always the case that to do more you need to spend more. Regardless of your budget, a strategic and data-driven marketing plan that takes the full user journey into account, will yield the best results. Often it takes the objectivity of an outsider to see the wood for the trees.

Responsible investment of your hard-won marketing budget needs to centre around clear objectives, measures and tracking, so you can show with certainty what works and what doesn’t. Drilling down into the path a person takes to interact with your brand almost always reveals a weak link in the chain that, when strengthened, can save thousands. Fresh eyes are invaluable in identifying pain points.

At Superdream, we’re an agency that knows not-for-profits. If you have any questions or need some PR and marketing advice, please feel free to contact the team or me directly at kirsty.visman@superdream.com.

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Kirsty Visman

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