Every non-profit is founded behind a cause. They advocate and raise funds for their causes, but often are forced to run their own organizations with minimal staff and financial resources. Unlike most industries, non-profits are performing an intricate balancing act when deciding how to use their funds. And, given the limiting nature of donations as the sole means of non-profit funding, marketing may seem a luxury afforded to for-profit organizations. However, just like any organization, non-profits depend on an informed and supportive market base in order to be successful.

Marketing is important for non-profits because they typically have three distinct target markets with which they need to communicate: donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries. Donors need to be inspired by the cause and find the organization trustworthy. Volunteers need to be recruited and rewarded in order to remain motivated. Beneficiaries need to be aware of the non-profit and understand how it operates in order to fully benefit from its services. While many non-profits have operated successfully without purposefully marketing (if they have fundraisers, they are marketing), the different needs of these target markets can most effectively be met with a strategic marketing plan.

So now you understand the importance of marketing for non-profits, but how do you best market for your non-profit? As previously mentioned, creating a marketing plan is a crucial step to a successful marketing campaign. By investing in a clear and focused marketing plan, your organization should minimize the costs resulting from waste coverage (reaching people who are not in your target market or reaching your target ineffectively) and see a significant increase in the ROI from marketing. In this plan, you should create a strategy for each of your target markets – because they are each different! It is important to note that people typically only have the time and money to support a few non-profits as a volunteer or donor. To this end, it is important to find out what motivates people to select a specific non-profit. If you haven’t quite pinpointed what has motivated people to get (and stay) involved with your non-profit, try browsing this informative list of general donor motivations released by the Council of Foundations. Once you understand your target markets’ motives, strive to emphasize these factors in all of your marketing materials.

Be sure to look out for Part Two of this blog, where we will identify marketing tactics that have proven to be both successful and inexpensive for non-profits.