Challenges in Nonprofit Marketing
Peter Drucker once said that Business has only two functions- Innovation and Marketing. Extending his line of thought I propound that a Nonprofit should concern itself to only two basic functions- Mission and Marketing. While being mission driven is instinctual to Nonprofits, their Achilles heel lies in marketing themselves.
Unlike commercial consumer brands, Nonprofits need to get people to care for something that doesn’t most often benefit them personally. This is the biggest challenge for a Nonprofit. Today the Nonprofit sector is teeming with a zillion entities that ask for donations for a ‘social cause’. A very high number of them lack bonafide intentions. They are fly–by-night operators taking advantage of people’s sympathies to make some quick buck. This drowns out messages from genuine nonprofits, driving away their prospective backers in worst cases.
Nonprofits backed by big corporations have the resources to reach more backers and grab eyeballs thru expensive marketing campaigns which may not be possible for most smaller and independent ones that survive on frugality. As a rule, nonprofits are more money-conscious than business enterprises are, because it is so hard to come by plus they have so much less of it than they need (HBR). Commercial brands typically spend anywhere between 10-20% of their revenue on their marketing and communications while nonprofits spend in lower single digits.
Biggest Challenge Is The Unfavorable Mindset Towards Marketing
“Marketing gets no respect in the nonprofit world”. – David Williamson (Managing Director of the consulting firm of Bernuth & Williamson, serving nonprofit clients in the areas of strategy, marketing, and communications.)
Most Nonprofits are highly self-righteous. They think that the goodness and nobleness of their cause is enough to wake the world from its ignorance and serve their purpose. Spending on marketing or administration is considered a diversion from the mission and almost a sacrilege of sorts. This temperament leads to ‘Don’t expect to get paid too much’ approach while scouting for internal or external resources. While chasing their impact, nonprofits forget that they are organizations that need to be governed and promoted like any other.
Nonprofits tend to use the terms marketing and communications interchangeably. Marketing is the heart, and communications is the brain. Reaching out to potential backers and donors needs an emotional message that can connect with them and guide them to necessary action. Along with this it’s also essential to keep other stakeholders like the media, regulatory bodies and investors abreast with overall growth of the organization. In many cases the marketing function of a nonprofit is staffed with individuals under the positions like field officer, outreach expert, public relation, and fundraising officer. In best cases, there’s a communication officer whose main mandate is interacting with media and investors.
According to a study, commercial brands spend on an average, 39% of their marketing budget on content marketing as against an average of 20% by non-profits. Not only this, but they allocate huge chunks of their budgets to social media campaigns and public outreach events. Nonprofits may not have comparable resources but they can certainly be clever in the way they reach out. Through visual storytelling, encouraging user generated content, on-ground activities and email marketing nonprofits can be highly effective in creating engagement with their donors.
How Marketing & Communications Can Help?
For any nonprofit to bring about a big scale social change it becomes imperative to build nothing less than a mass movement by creating popular awareness and participation. Marketing its cause that suits its specific context can play a big role in enabling this goal. Take for example charity:water, a global nonprofit brand. It has created a mass fan base of millions of backers from all over the world supporting it in its efforts to bring clean water to the people in Africa with its tactful use of visual storytelling. They claim to spend zero dollars on conventional advertising.
As David Williamson in his report says, “Don’t just communicate. Market.”