Not Just for Madison Avenue: The Basics of Nonprofit Marketing

When the topic of "marketing" arises in a conversation, it's always interesting to hear the numerous perceptions tied to this rather straightforward concept. The full spectrum of responses includes advertising, word-of-mouth, fluff, and my personal favorite—selling you something you don't need! I believe the problem with understanding marketing lies in the over-commercialization of the term, which ignores business acumen, strategy, and execution.

According to the American Marketing Association, "Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives." Sound simple enough?

Unfortunately, there is no marketing equivalent of accountants' Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or manufacturing managers' First In, First Out (IFO) or Last In, First Out (LIFO) for inventory valuation. The following discussion is intended to help senior nonprofit managers evaluate and realign specific facets of their approach to marketing.

Every nonprofit has goals or objectives. In the process of reaching those goals, the organization needs financial supporters (donors) who hear its message and want to be part of its journey. Organizations then apply traditional marketing methods to reach those donors.