NonProfits Must Be Strategically Savvy


trapezeRecently I've found myself involved with the nonprofit sector once again. In today's environment the management team and board are learning to perform a difficult trapeze act...balancing the mission of the organization while coordinating business and marketing challenges. Often those not intimately involved in not-for-profits are surprised to learn the nonprofit world can be more competitive than what their corporate cousins face.

However, nonprofit directors are taking their cues from the for-profit sector and developing sophisticated marketing plans that often include strategies such as: branding, positioning, fund raising, patron and competitor research. A few innovative organizations are even blogging! Want to know what young adults are thinking about American politics? Checkout the blog at Music for America - and click onto their wiki.

Though not quite a nonprofit, the City of Eden Prairie, MN has 2 blogs! I must admit I’ve never been to Eden Prairie but after reading Police Chief Dan Carlson’s delightful posts and those of City Manger Scott Neal (Mr. Neal has been blogging since March 2003!) I’m ready to visit their fair city. The city’s website states that “Eden Prairie is headed for the 21st century.” I’d say they were leading the way!

Thanks to Laura Caligan, Communications Manager, Georgia Center for Nonprofit, for the link to Len Witt's article about nonprofit blogging.

From Paula Oyer Berezin, President, Social Capital Partnerships, here are a few ideas from the recent AMA Nonprofit Marketing Conference that will help build your marketing plan...great ideas for any sector!

On Branding:
-Brian Gallagher, United Way of America
"Be. Do. Say." Whether you have a big budget or no budget to invest in your brand, it is more important that you define it and live your brand more than spend money on designing and advertising it.

Internal marketing is a pre-requisite. Focus and alignment is both key to managing your brand.

-Darell Hammond, KaBOOM!
Two key questions: What do we stand for? And, how do we stand out? Most people have a recipe and a model. The hard part is following it. Organizational buy-in takes time. Resist going big fast. Build equity.

-Bill Novelli, AARP
"We want be a badge brand. We want to increase our members' vestedness in our organization."

-Pat Mitchell, PBS
"Be sure about where you want people to go. Communicate it clearly. Lead with optimism and personal empowerment."

-Kurt Ascherman, Boys & Girls Club of America
Your mission/brand statement should pass the elevator test. You should be able to articulate it in 30 seconds. Figure out your "Unique Service Proposition." Make marketing a standing committee of the board, ensuring it is written into the bylaws. Most important part of your marketing strategy is the call to action.

-David Zucker, Porter Novelli
Invest more time and energy on behavior than your ad campaign.

On Membership
-Bill Lamar, McDonald's
Focus on target customer. If you get good at delivering value for your best customers, you do well for all customers.

On Sponsorship
-Darell Hammond, KaBOOM!
Commit to big citizenship vs. transactional-based partnerships.

-Kurt Ascherman, Boys & Girls Club of America
We are moving away from "partnership" to "collaboration." Make cross-functional account teams formal.

On Hiring Practices
-Darell Hammond, KaBOOM!
We look for: "Can do. Will do. Team fit. Dam quick. Damn smart."

-Kurt Ascherman, Boys & Girls Club of America
"If development and marketing don't get along, fire one of them."
Development and marketing should be coordinated under one umbrella.

On Maintaining a Vibrant Board
-Sam Pettway, BoardWalk Consulting LLC
Require board members to sign a commitment letter outlining your expectations.

Survey your board members. Ask:
1) How many other board commitments
2) Rank level of commitment
3) Rank financial commitment
4) What are the three biggest strategic challenges for the organization?
5) What is the brand of the organization's mission, e.g., what do we mean by "solving hunger?"
6) How can we make better use of your time?
7) Ask board members to evaluate the productiveness of each board meeting.

-Diane Linen Powell, Des Plaines Publishing Company
Inventory your board for complementary skills. Recruit board members who:
1) Have a facility and ability to give or get
2) Embrace and spread the mission through civic and corporate relationships
3) Possess governance skills

-Kurt Ascherman, Boys & Girls Club of America
Create a board people want to be on.

On Leadership
-Kurt Ascherman, Boys & Girls Club of America
"Carry the water of get out."If you are not happy with the leadership, try to change it...rather than staying in obscurity, complaining.


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Re: your post on Eden Prairie blogs. Yes, Minnesota has become the Land of 10,000 blogs. Home to some well-known blogs like the conservative Powerline, credited (or blamed) for ending Dan Rather's career at CBS News, Minnesota nonprofits are also getting into the mix. We're one of them, blogging since Feb. 2005.

Bob Moffitt
Communications Director
American Lung Association of Minnesota

Posted by: Bob Moffitt on May 25, 2005 12:35:27 PM

As a former nonprofit manager and owner of a virtual marketing agency, I think that you are spot on in this article.

A strong brand identity and cohesive marketing strategy are crucial to nonprofit success.

Here is a fun little video that explains the importance of brand:

Monique Danielle

Posted by: MoinqueDanielle on Apr 8, 2006 6:16:00 PM

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