We had some great discussions with many good questions and issues raised by the participants. While these are fresh on my mind, and because I have a few days off, I thought I would try to write a bit about marketing and pr practices applied to nonprofit organizations. This article is the first of what I hope will be a series on the subject (no guarantees that I will follow through).
There is significant diversity in the nonprofit sector so it is impossible to develop a marketing plan template that is applicable to all types of organizations. This may seem obvious, but this observation is often overlooked. The marketing needs of a private school, an experimental theatre company, a cancer research organization and a seniors centre are quite different, yet they all fall under the nonprofit umbrella. So perhaps the first step is to break down the larger sector into different types of organizations, not necessarily based on the type of endeavor, but based on their respective marketing needs.
Another potential issue to deal with is the intersection and divergence of the different but very similar fields of marketing, public relations and fundraising. These activities and practices are similar and support each other, but for planning purposes, these similarities often create confusion that can be detrimental to making the best decisions. Similarly, the differences require different management systems be in place to support the processes. Confusing these activities can lead to poor decisions in both planning and management.
The diversity of the relationships that nonprofit organizations must manage is another area that can make marketing plans difficult to develop. Usually in business, the relationships are relatively straightforward. Customers or clients pay for a product or service that is delivered directly to them by employees. A system of suppliers along with internal and external support systems help make this basic process possible.
The nonprofit world is often more complicated, with customers or clients that do not pay for the service they receive, with someone else paying for the service who may or may not be involved. There may be hybrids of business models and charitable models working side by side. An organization may operate on a basic fee for service as a foundation of its core business, but offer free services to the community in conjunction with its core business. There are many other combinations of service delivery and funding.
My plan is to develop some ideas in a series of articles over the next couple of weeks that will sort through these difficulties.
Ron Strand has been a campaign director and a CEO of a major charity. He now teaches communications and courses related to fund development at a University. He has a website with some of his ideas about marketing, communications and Fund Development.
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