Whether nonprofits need to market themselves is an interesting debate within the nonprofit community. Some say they do, while others argue that it’s mostly a waste of money that should be spent elsewhere. Our clients seem to feel that sharing stories of successes and challenges provides great value both to the nonprofits themselves and to the community. This kind of communication also connects constituents more closely to the nonprofit organization and its leaders.
Nonprofit and commercial businesses share some familiar attributes, including the need to connect to and be embraced by others. Nonprofits have customers and constituents they serve in various ways, and they have ways to let others know if they are successful and worthy of continued support. Lyric Opera of Chicago wants people to know of innovative, exciting performances; Meals on Wheels in Los Angeles wants you to know that many people are eating tonight who would otherwise go hungry; Florida’s Take Stock in Children wants you to know how government and private efforts are improving high school graduation rates. Nonprofits have facilities, people and work processes, and they benefit from the moral and material support of others.
The big difference between a nonprofit and commercial business is that one is primarily concerned with social good, while the other is concerned with individual good and shareholder-value. But each can learn from the other, and marketing & communication is key to both.
“Marketing” is important to nonprofits because it leads to increased understanding of who benefits from the organization’s work and investments. This leads to increased embrace and support of effective organizations. Who benefits when services lead to a more educated workforce? Who benefits when homeless people find supportive housing? Who benefits from environmental conservation? How does art uplift us? If we become convinced of the benefit, then maybe we will do more to fund the efforts of nonprofits and take more advantage of the benefit they deliver.
In this country we talk a lot about social good and about helping our friends and neighbors. Maybe that’s what marketing nonprofits is about – telling others about where to give help and where to get help.
What do you think?
To learn more about the nonprofit organizations mentioned, please follow the links below to: