As marketers and communicators, it’s important to stay fresh and inspired. Where do you turn for ideas and inspiration? It’s all around us, in both expected and unexpected places. To discover some new ways to inspire nonprofit marketing, I posed the question to a group of pros. Their answers are diverse, clever and…inspiring!

Here are (more than) eight ways to inspire your nonprofit marketing:


Speak with colleagues

“Much of my inspiration comes from ‘other’ departments. As marketers, we sometimes find ourselves bogged down with books, blogs, podcasts, social media and what others are doing. I love discussing with the front line employees about their ideas and getting their feedback. Most everyone has amazing ideas, they may just not have a platform to share them, or they may not realize their ideas are amazing. Even if it is just a small part of their idea that I use, they still take ownership of it and it helps to create an environment of sharing.”

Dusty Buell
Director of Marketing



Watch documentaries

“I get tons inspiration from watching documentaries. There’s something about truth that truly is stranger, and more compelling, than fiction. I’ve learned so much about topics that simply don’t get much public attention from documentaries. Their ability to bring an obscure topic to life and make it relevant and important to the audience is something every communicator can learn from.”

-Farah Ng
Communications Associate
Saint Elizabeth Health Care



Read relevant books

“Tom Ahern’s book [Seeing Through a Donor’s Eyes: How to Make a Persuasive Case for Everything from Your Annual Drive to Your Planned Giving Program to Your Capital Campaign] just helped me complete a case statement that I hope is more emotionally satisfying for donors. He explains that people give to nonprofits because it’s emotionally satisfying. The book is an easy, helpful read.”

Jennifer Charney
Communications Manager
Save the Redwoods League



Find the right environment, images

“As a left and right-brained marketer, I find inspiration in a variety of environments; it just depends on the side of the brain that I’m utilizing at the moment. If it’s a strategic or analytical project, I’m most likely to get inspired at a coffee shop while listening to some music. If it’s ‘out of the box’ creative thinking I’m seeking, I typically tune into some upbeat songs and go for a walk, bike ride or a workout. Inspiration most often flows for me from changing my environment—and of course hearing music. For quicker, at my desk inspiration, I’ll Google words or phrases connected to a given project using the image search function and just see where it leads me.”

-Donnie Claudino
Marketing Manager
Aboriginal Human Resource Council



Watch other nonprofits

“My short answer is the Toronto Community Foundation / Community Knowledge Centre. The Toronto Community Foundation is about community vitality. They connect donors to community needs and help people invest in Toronto to make it the best place to live, work, learn and grow. Their Community Knowledge Centre showcases innovative community organizations doing great work in Toronto. Sometimes I look here to be inspired by the stories, photos and videos of organizations that are having an impact on our city right now.”

-Laurie Schertzer
Director of Communications
Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund



Practice yoga

“Several years ago I was forced to look for a new physical activity due to a running injury. I heard about hot yoga so I decided to check it out.  When I’m on my mat, I stop thinking about the long list of to do items. If I find myself in a stressful situation or under a tight deadline when I’m off my mat (yogi speak), I start to notice my breath; it helps me relax and de-stress. Many of my teachers will read an uplifting or motivating quote at the end of class that can bring perspective in so many areas of my life. Ultimately, yoga helps to make me a happier employee and co-worker!”

-Sherry Calder
Senior Manager, Communications
Canadian Diabetes Association



Follow great writers

“I believe that some of the best writing is from writers of short stories and essays, especially Nora Ephron, George Saunders, and David Sedaris who draw you in immediately with their storytelling. Every word counts in a short story and it is a good reminder for all writers to get to the point. I also like to check out, on a daily basis, online magazines such as Salon, Slate, and New York Magazine’s Vulture to discover what people are taking about because the messages we are writing are constantly competing for attention with everything else that is happening right now.”

-Suzanne Hallsworth
Community Giving & Communications Director
Oakville Hospital Foundation



Keep learning and monitor the marketplace

“Five things that keep the ideas rolling for me include:

  1. Reading clever marketing books that are about more than just marketing (Switch; Made to Stick) and making a point to talk about them with staff and friends to get reactions that generate ideas.
  2. Devouring marketing resources like Marketing News magazine from AMA and LinkedIn groups/suggested blog posts and forums on various angles of the marketing mix to stay current.
  3. Seeking out great campaigns (ie. Kmart’s Ship my Pants) and researching them to learn all I can about it, jotting down tips I plan to use going forward.
  4. Leaving my marketing brain in Drive all the time; watching for brands that catch my attention and figuring out why.
  5. Finally, keeping a running list/outline/notes of books I hope to write someday to ensure that the creative juices never dry up.”
-Kerry Morgan
SVP, Marketing & Communications
United Way of the National Capital Area


What techniques do you use to come up with ideas? Where do you find inspiration? Please share in the comments!

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira