Nonprofit Marketing: It’s not an event

Let’s get rid of this notion that nonprofit organizations should market differently than for-profit businesses. While nonprofits may not be selling goods and services they are selling something; donations, passion, or an idea. The primary flaw in nonprofit marketing is micromarketing, focusing on short-term, one-time events.


Nonprofit organizations tend to focus on marketing for donations, most often tugging on the heart strings to convince people to donate. That’s not bad, it’s just incomplete because they’re marketing as a one-time event, not as a sustainable organization. Nonprofits omit the organization behind the event. This practice wastes a lot of money because when the event is over, so is the marketing for that event, and so is the investment in the marketing for that event. There is no residual effect.

I’ve seen a lot of this close up, because I’ve done a lot of work for non-profits over the years. Nonprofits almost always have an event mentality. They push the next event because that’s how they will get donations. But they do so at the expense of their identity. They pay little to no attention to the brand behind the event. This has the effect of temporary engagement with donors (customers) who say “I’ll donate for this one event, and I’ll see you same time next year.”

Profitable businesses follow the rule of ABM (Always Be Marketing). If you always want business, always be marketing. Nonprofits understand this concept, but the mistake they make is short, self-contained marketing campaigns, rather than sustainable marketing. Marketing for the long-term, and consistently engaging people with your nonprofit, means that you market all the time, but not always for donations.

Get in the Brand

What we’re really talking about here is the brand. Let people know who you are, why you exist, and why they would want to be part of your crusade, not why they would want to donate to your campaign.

So if you’re a nonprofit organization trying to get a grip on marketing, are you focusing on the brand or the event? I’m not saying ignore your events, but I am saying don’t ignore your brand. What’s your marketing focus?

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