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What are the Basics of Not-For-Profit Marketing?

Tess C. Taylor
Tess C. Taylor

Just like any other business, nonprofit organizations must spend a great deal of time marketing in order to promote objectives and grow. How not-for-profit marketing is accomplished is generally determined by the types of causes being promoted and to whom marketing campaigns are directed. There are some basics that nonprofits use in order to get the best results such as building awareness, fundraising, education, utilizing volunteer staff, and growing the member foundation.

One of the basics of not-for-profit marketing is building awareness of the organization through direct marketing. This can be accomplished in many ways, but the most popular is word-of-mouth marketing, community networking and use of social media. By directly promoting the organization and its causes, many not-for-profit organizations can successfully get the word out.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

Another basic yet critical aspect of not-for-profit marketing is fundraising activities. Most not-for-profits understand that without funding, the objectives of the organization cannot be met. Fundraising can take place on a local level with community events, donation drives, and support from other organizations. In addition, fundraising can be achieved by going after government grants and organizing national donation campaigns.

In addition to raising funds through carefully planned not-for-profit marketing efforts, organizations build up their staffs with a mix of local contributors and nationally involved members. A not-for-profit can better reach more members by sharing information along a wide network of diverse members from many areas. This is part of an overall marketing strategy that many not-for-profit organizations employ to promote the cause by allowing others to participate, support the cause, and spread the word.

Not-for-profit marketing should also include building and increasing the influence of the foundation or board of directors. The foundation is generally made up of a network of wealthy or powerful benefactors who can lead the organization, implement policies, and provide the financial support needed to fulfill goals. Over time, a not-for-profit should add more foundation members who can bring these qualities and help to make the organization stronger in its efforts.

Another of the key aspects of not-for-profit marketing is the ongoing training and education of staff members. With the not-for-profit industry changing and new technologies making it possible to reach more consumers, an agency that wants to stay ahead of trends should continually develop and educate paid and unpaid staff on new methods of marketing and communication with potential donors. By combining education and staffing with smart marketing strategy, a nonprofit organization can produce much better results.

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Discussion Comments


@BrickBack - Wow that sounds like so much fun. I think that nonprofit jobs must be so rewarding. You know that you are making a positive difference in people’s lives just by going to work every day. How many people can say that?

I have a sister that has a nonprofit job as an attorney representing people that are facing evictions and live in terrible conditions.

Many of these people are really poor and have no other alternative then going to this legal aid service. It really helps a lot of people improve the quality of their life which is really the goal of all non profits.

I think that anyone that works at a nonprofit is doing a wonderful service. I don't know the type of non profit marketing that they do, but I do know that they receive government grants.


I know that many non profits have a database of donors and often send them information on upcoming fundraisers in order to exceed their goals. I usually get telemarketing calls as well as email announcements involving fundraising events for various charities that I have contributed to.

I know a lot of charities also have signature events in which the majority of their funds come from these events. They are usually black tie galas that offer silent auction as well as live auctions from donated items in order to raise funds for the charity. Some of these items involve trips or dinners with a celebrity chef.

I have gone to some of these events and they are really fun.

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