Starting Your Non-Profit: The Marketing Quotient.

I have helped to start up 3 nonprofit organizations and worked with many others. This is part of a series to help those interested in building a non-profit organization build a framework for success.  

A key issue to any start up, whether it is a for profit of non profit, relates to marketing. It is one of those  aspects of business which everyone talks about, but which seems a bit intimidating. And then there is the Return On Investment, ROI, question. That is, is marketing worth the investment? The answer is yes and no.

Not all marketing is equal. Your Marketing Plan needs to satisfy the marketplace, not your ego. That means that key to your marketing program is that the cost is absorbed and justified by and in the growth of your business. A $25 beautifully embroidered hat bearing your logo may look fantastic, but you may get far more mileage from  a 1000 business cards, or spending $5 daily for a week to promote your brand on Facebook, or in buying an add in a local church bulletin or community event. Ultimately marketing is simply about the numbers. How many can you reach with the least possible amount of expenditure? That is called ROI.

One thing about whatever marketing you decide is necessary to invest in is that some marketing plan is critical part of your start up budget and consciousness. I say consciousness, because it is as important as locks on the door, a website or any of those other things that seems logical at the top of any start up list. Unfortunately, for most start ups, if Marketing makes it on the list at all, it usually holds a fairly minor priority status.

Note, that I haven’t preceded this post with branding or product, or what you will call yourself or your NP. That’s because in today’s market there as many ways to find your NP as there are ways to bury it. You need to be considering marketing right up front. Marketing is fundamental, not supplemental to your business. For example a Bing search using the key words “non profit organizations in Illinois” garnered 17,700,000, that’s million, results. Google brought 51 million results. You want and need to get noticed. Those numbers can be daunting, especially if your team is a few fellow activists and a dream, or just you and your meager checking account and a dream.

While a NP may look at the 51 million results and wonder how it will ever get noticed, the internet, it turns out, is still far more democratic in terms of getting noticed than almost any other media. If you have it and want to spend it, someone will always take your money. You don’t have to break the bank when it comes to marketing. In fact, you can achieve a lot with your marketing goals with little or no money at all.

Imagine you live on a block and open the door to find that an average of 46% of the planet’s population is parading past. On your immensely large block are 51 million fellow NPs all looking for the same attention. Some of them are larger, some better connected to others who assist in penetrating that cynical mass in the street and many others are the same size or smaller. In fact, of that 51 million, many are gone, relics to the ever deepening archaeological silt of the internet. Many others are press releases or redundancies, blogs, press alerts, articles mentioning some aspect  of “non’ or “profit” or “organizations” or “Illinois.” Already we are whittling down that daunting number, and your voice is not so lost in the wilderness as you might think.

So what sort of marketing plan and tools are best in promoting your NP on its shoestring budget? Remember, you have  other start up expenses to consider, and budgets are about parceling. In the next piece I’ll talk a bit about ways to get noticed with next to no cash, and hopefully optimize your marketing budget. We’ll do that by mixing in Branding and Concept to begin pulling together your idea into a workable and attainable goal. In the meantime, keep working on your idea. You are going to change the world. 

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