Non-Profit Challenge

I’m currently on the board of a non-profit organization and over the years I have served quite a few. 
Non-profits face a unique challenge in a down economy. People tend to use the economy as an excuse about donations. When I say “people” I am referring to both people who support the organizations and people who run them.

Most non-profits are guilty of acting like they are not in the same business as for-profit organizations. They see themselves as “different” because they are engaged in the acts of “doing good” for other people. As a result they engage in what I call altruistic marketing and they believe people will support their “cause” based on the fact they are altruistic. “Please donate because of all the wonderful things we do” is the same message too many organizations use over and over.

It’s not that easy. Non-profits do enjoy a unique relationship with their “customers” but they have failed, in most cases, to do more than scratch the surface of their relationships. Their uniqueness gives them an advantage because people are more likely to want to support a cause than a commercial brand. Social media offers wonderful opportunities to non-profits. But, you still have to tell your story and tell it in such a way that it spreads through other people. If people within your "community" are talking about you – you're not likely to be getting the financial support you need.

So far, very few non-profits have leveraged the opportunities that social media and networks present. Those that do engage in some activities usually don’t have a plan as to why and how they will use Web 2.0 and 3.0 media. Some are barely at 1.0.

Non-profits do a poor job at educating the public as to what they do and the resultant benefits to the community and donors. Non-profits must tell their story to everyone and it must be unique story that explains in both logical and emotional terms the return on investment donor dollars brings to everyone that is touched by the organization. The great news is they usually have wonderful stories to tell.

A new marketing approach requires both vision and leadership within the non-profit. The same old ways aren’t going to work anymore – and they definitely aren’t going to work in a down economy.

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