Many non-profits seem to shy away from marketing. It seems that they think marketing is for sales oriented efforts only, and any push for including it for them would mean policing, loss of identity and the like. It strikes me as odd that they do not lump their numerous outreach strategies into this conundrum, which are a staple for any public service organization.
I’ve always thought that any kind of representation of your organization as marketing. Everything from the way someone is treated when they call your place of business (and yes, non-profit organizations ARE businesses), to how you present information at a workshop are all marketing. You are showing off why your organization is great. You are a living, walking representation of the organization (and the cause) – like it or not.
Sometimes, all some clients know of your organization is you. They may not be able to tell you exactly where your office is located, how you are funded, or what your overarching purpose is. But, they do know you and how you present yourself and the way your information looks will ultimately be the only marketing that they will ever encounter for your agency.
How will anyone know to attend your open house/workshop/walk in hours if you do not do outreach into the community? You need to think about what clients (or donors!) you seek and develop a plan to reach them – where they are. In this day and age, all marketers need to realize that people are inundated. Commercials no longer work to gain clients. Meeting them where they are and providing them with a service they need is what marketing should be about. This is especially true in the non-profit sphere.
Developing key relationships with those in the community who are trusted gate keepers will go a long way in helping you include a community into your efforts. By doing a little (hopefully, a lot) of research, you can find out what organizations your target audience participates in. These groups are already integrated members of this community – they are trusted, where an outside agency may not be. They can help you get your message across and ultimately, help them recognize the importance of your cause to them. You need this – once the issue becomes theirs it will grow and continue, with or without you.
Isn’t that the ultimate goal?