Use Your Non-Profit Marketing Dollars Wisely

Sheila E. Lewis, President Flyin’ West Marketing

Sheila E. Lewis, President Flyin’ West Marketing

Fundraising must be tied to marketing. You need to generate awareness and excitement in order to generate revenue. Guest blogger Sheila E. Lewis shares six tips for marketing success.

Marketing is often a management challenge for non-profit organizations. After all, non-profits exist to provide services to targeted communities, not to sell revenue-generating products. Additionally, most small to medium-sized NPOs do not have marketing positions, often assigning communications projects to fundraising professionals.

For many NPOs, spending money on marketing means fewer dollars that could be used for programming and other direct services. However, most non-profit managers understand that communication campaigns are necessary to raise awareness and funds. The conflict between serving clients, building the organization’s brand, and generating funds requires that NPOs maximize limited marketing budgets.

When considering the best allocation of scarce marketing dollars, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How much money do you want to commit to the project? If you don’t have a budget in mind, everything will seem too expensive. You’ll get what you pay for so the least expensive solution may cost you more in the long run.
  2. What results do you want? How will you measure the results? It is important to view marketing dollars as “working” funds for a NPO. Spend with the end in mind.
  3. Who is your target audience and what messages will be most effective? Messages resonate differently with each target audience. It’s important to know who they are and what will motivate them to act.
  4. How many times must your target audience hear or see your message before moving to action? Should you employ more than one communication tool or channel? Does that require several different messages?
  5. How much time do you have before the first materials need to be available? And, how long will the campaign run? It is best to have a project plan that helps keep you and your resources on track—delays cost money.
  6. Who will manage the communication campaign? Will the work be completed in-house or do you require external resources? There are several marketing firms or independent consultants focusing specifically on NPOs and thus bring a heightened sensitivity to your work. You will find a range of fees for these services. Feel comfortable negotiating if you believe the fees to be too high.

You may be able to secure pro bono assistance, but be sure that the firm or individual has the level of experience and the capacity to complete your work successfully and on time.

Either way, it is a good practice to seek referrals from other NPOs whose materials you like. You may also choose to speak with a representative from the local chapter of The American Marketing Association or a non-profit management service organization providing capacity-building support for non-profit organizations. Check references and the work product of any firm or individual before hiring them.

The most effective communication campaigns—whether geared toward a special event, fundraising, or building awareness among your community—require good planning, an appropriate budget and skilled resources for implementation. Know your target audience and speak their language.

Sheila E. Lewis is the President of Flyin’ West Marketing in Fremont, CA, a full service marketing firm with several clients in the non-profit sector. www.flyinwestmarketing.com. (510) 668.0351

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