If you’re like most nonprofits, you’re probably wondering how you can rise above the noise of all the other organizations out there trying to rally support for their cause. The places that get noticed in this cluttered nonprofit world (there are over 1.5 million in the US alone) generally have one thing in common: a very good marketing plan. The Charity: Waters and UNICEFs of the world don’t just whip up campaigns. They are thoughtfully designed and beautifully executed all thanks to a great nonprofit marketing plan.
We’re here to help you get a grasp on creating a nonprofit marketing plan so that in a few years, you’ll probably be the inspiration for more nonprofits to dig in on their marketing plans. Here we go:
1) Do Your Research
- Who are other organizations in the space? Why are they successful (or not so successful)? What do they do that you want to emulate? What do you do that they hate? Think about it from all angles: as a competitor, as a community member, as a donor, etc. Who is established? Who is the newcomer?
- Who are your donors/supporters/volunteers/etc? What do they get from you that they can’t get anywhere else? Do they like you? Do they open emails from you? Do they follow and engage with you on social media? What do they want from you? Consider polling them about issues like this.
2) Get Internal Input
- Sit down with your leadership and have frank conversations about how they want to be positioned in relation to the rest of the industry, who the audience really is, what their goals are, etc.
- Take a poll of all your stakeholders (leadership, staff, donors, volunteers, etc) and ask them what they want more of/less of from your organization.
- These first two steps are critical in figuring out what it is that makes you different from the competition. This is what the core of your marketing plan will be.
3) Make Your Nonprofit Marketing Plan
- Sit down and take all of your findings and craft a plan. Here’s a template to pull from. But we recommend that you make this as unique and your own as possible. If a part of that template isn’t relevant for you, then take it out (after careful contemplation of why it’s not relevant, of course).
- Set realistic yet ambitious goals based on a timeline that allows for some flexibility (as things will not always go as smoothly as you’d like).
- Assign responsibility. Because marketing is truly an organization-wide responsibility, make sure to get as many departments as possible involved.
- Look at all the different tactics you can use: taking into careful consideration both online and offline methods to achieve your goals. Social media, billboards, email, direct mail, radio spots, banner ads, skywriting, etc. The sky is the limit (as long as it’s within the limit of your budget obviously). But really think outside the box. How are you going to get people’s attention?
4) Sell the Plan
- Sit down with your leadership again. Present your plan to them. And back it up with data from your polling as well as from best practices that you’ve come across in all of your other industry research (which you’ve of course been doing maniacally during this process). Lay out resources that you’ll need: staff time, advertising budget, etc.
- After you agree to a final plan and present it to staff, now reality sets in…
5) Execute the Plan
- Now comes the easy part. Just kidding. No, you definitely did the heaviest lifting in the research and creation phase, but it’s all for naught if you can’t execute. You’ll likely need to be the plan’s loudest and most effective advocate, and because you got leadership’s buy-in from the get-go, you’ll have support when you’re making sure the plan is happening. Remember: the plan will not execute itself.
6) Track and Report
- Because you were smart and built in tracking mechanisms and daily, weekly and monthly reports to decision makers in your nonprofit marketing plan, this part is all about execution as well. And before you write off this step, just remember that it’s a critical part of the next step, which arguably may be the most important step of all…
7) Refine the Plan
- One of the hardest parts of operating in the nonprofit space is adapting to the ever-evolving nature of how to best do things. Trends come and go. People get weary of certain tactics. New tech platforms arise. That’s why one of the most critical pieces of your plan is this step because you need to always be one step ahead of your competition. And that means voraciously reading the latest reports, articles, blogs, etc about nonprofit marketing.
Even though “marketing” often has a negative connotation, it’s actually the most important thing your organization can do to grow and better serve your community – so this nonprofit marketing plan is truly one of the most essential tools in your nonprofit’s arsenal. This plan cannot be undervalued, and it’s up to you to make it happen – and make it successful once it’s live in the wild.
If tracking and reporting and sharing and everything else is a little scary because of the perceived price involved, don’t fret. Here’s a handy link to a bunch of free and discounted resources for nonprofits.