Nonprofit marketing: The beginning

Contrary to what most people believe, marketing and philanthropic missions are not polar opposites. Buzz and branding can help your nonprofit cultivate the funds to carry out meaningful goals. Marketing strategies are yet another way to establish a conversation between an organization, donors, volunteers and others committed to a cause. Looking through a business lens can help you bolster support for your mission.

If you're a fundraiser, you're not alone in feeling that having a marketing strategy is an elusive concept. It's hard enough to ask for money and it's understandable that taking a "selling" angle would feel uncouth. Though it can take some practice, re-orienting your view of marketing as a means of reaching out can open a lot of doors to funds. For novices, here are some ways to implement a promotional approach to philanthropy:

Combine efforts
Everyone within a nonprofit is part of the same team, even if job descriptions differ. Fundraisers should sit down and meet with peers who are focused on building the organization's brand, said Lyndsey Hrabik, managing editor of Nonprofit Hub. Find common ground in measurable goals, such as a concrete timeline for raising a specific amount of money. You can get even more precise by discussing how you hope to spend the funds. This way, you can gain some fresh perspectives on how to reach the likeliest benefactors.

If you're part of a smaller nonprofit, it's likely that a marketing department doesn't exist. You should consider hiring a consultant in that case or develop a do-it-yourself plan.

Begin with the buzz
You can't reach donors if they don't know you exist. Branding builds bridges. The more familiar an audience is with your nonprofit, the likelier they are to trust the mission.

Word-of-mouth is the easiest place to start, according to nonprofit marketing expert Randy Hawthorne. It requires no budget and you can get the ball rolling right away. Reach out to your most invested volunteers and ask them to join you in creating engagement about your organization outside of the office.

Passionate supporters will be more than happy to spark some organic discussion in their everyday interactions. In turn, some of their listeners will pass along the enthusiasm.

Combine this tactic with social media, and the conversation will spread faster than you might expect. You can even ask devoted volunteers to regularly update blog posts and tweets. Using your virtual presence, you can also set up a home page to accept online donations.

Establishing brand familiarity is just the beginning. Once you find your footing here, you're ready to move onto more detailed marketing strategies. Look out for these savvy tips in the near future.

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