In last month’s very lively #NPMC chat, our topic was nonprofit marketing budgets. As we explored this topic, the conversation touched upon the overall role of marketing communications in a nonprofit. The archives have been posted and here are a few tweets from our conversation, which has inspired our topic for June 27:

@chilikris: However, donations and $$$ cannot be the only measured ROI of a marketing strategy.  #npmc

@HildyGottlieb: A1 #nonprofit mktg budgets too often relate to fundraising vs ongoing cmty engagement for mission success. #npmc

@SHallsworth: Q1c.Easier to get buy-in for if you can show success from other orgs. and if your marcom strategy hits strategic plan buttons #npmc

@SherryCalder: Q4. Marketing needs to be seen as an investment in the org’s mission. Not an expense. #NPMC

During last month’s discussion, a recurring point was the role of marketing communications in nonprofit often being tied to fundraising. In fact, for many organizations, the responsibility for marketing lies within a fundraising role or department. However, nonprofit organizations serve the wants and needs of a diverse group of stakeholders of which supporters are only one subset.

Marketing represents a focus on understanding and serving the client, customer, or consumer; it is a mechanism for bringing an individual or group with wants or needs together with an organization that can meet them. Because nonprofits must engage diverse groups of stakeholders and need to market services, experiences, products, behaviours, causes AND the organization, nonprofit marketing can be incredibly complex. For those delivering nonprofit marketing communications, the expectations and functions of marketing can include the following and sometimes much more:

  • Stakeholder/community engagement
  • Delivery of mission and strategic priorities
  • Elevation of the organizational brand
  • Raising awareness of a cause/issue
  • Promotion of behaviour/behaviour change (social marketing)
  • Support of government relations/advocacy efforts
  • Promotion of programs, services and events
  • And the list goes on…

An exceptional book on nonprofit marketing is Marketing Strategies for Nonprofit Organizations, by Siri Espy (though it can be difficult to get your hands on a copy). In her introductory chapter, Ms. Espy makes the following compelling statement:

“Marketing is a vital part of any organization’s success in fulfilling its mission and reaching those whom it exists to serve.”

With the multitude of expectations surrounding nonprofit marketing, why are resources often tied to fundraising outcomes? What is the appropriate role and position of marketing in a nonprofit organization?

What’s your view?

What is the role of marketing communications in your nonprofit? Is it inextricably linked to fundraising or is marketing integrated across all of your organization’s strategic priorities? How do you leverage your marketing efforts to support the overall mission of your organization?

Join the conversation

Join the #NPMC chat on Thursday, June 27 at 1:00 p.m. E.T. to discuss the role of marketing communications in the nonprofit context and how to leverage it for mission-driven results.

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