Articles | Strategies and Campaigns | Increase Your Nonprofit Marketing Impact: 3 Right-Now Steps

Increase Your Nonprofit Marketing Impact: 3 Right-Now Steps

So many of you share this frustration with me—You don’t know what to focus on next; and are overwhelmed with all you have to do with so little time and not enough budget. There are never enough of either resource!

Here are three strategies that are doable and will change your marketing life (and the rest of it, since frustration gets in the way of so much else).

These strategies are drawn from the stellar sessions at this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC). For more info on session content, Google the hashtag (for example, #11NTCweave) for related blog posts, articles and tweets.

Dive in to learn how to diffuse your frustration right now, as you increase your nonprofit marketing impact.

Weave Your Nonprofit Marketing Loose Ends Into a Tight, Powerful Plan (#11ntcweave)

Spray-and-pray—that describes far too many nonprofit marketing campaigns, as organizations generate flyers, Facebook page updates, emails, direct mail and more on an as needed, and frequently rushed, basis.

The problem is that spray-and-pray is as ineffective and inefficient as you can get, and is a powerful deterrent to generating the marketing and fundraising impact your organization needs to achieve its mission.

Yet you’ve told me how tough it is to stop cranking it out and take a bit of time to plan, and I understand exactly what you mean. It’s the perennial shoemaker’s kids problem—we don’t know how to focus our marketing efforts to generate the greatest impact, but we can’t take the time out to do so, or don’t know where to start.

But there is a doable way to ensure that your nonprofit’s marketing is exponentially greater than the sum of its individual parts, and it offers you huge potential to engage your base so much more powerfully. That’s why I partnered with Kivi Leroux Miller of to introduce this solution to nonprofit communicators at NTC.

Here is the 11-fold path to weaving a tight, powerful marketing plan, as highlighted live by session participants via Twitter:

  1. Move marketing from support function to a strategic player. (@stacyjclinton)
  2. Stop acting as the in-house marketing agency at your org, and take control of the situation. (@egratto)
  3. But you need a marketing plan to make the move to strategic player. Only 16% of orgs have a written, approved plan. Huge opportunity! (@ksuzj)
  4. A marketing plan directs your focus and keeps you on a clearly defined path. (@elimcgon)
  5. Marketing planning is ongoing series of refining and understanding. Don’t plan more than 1 year out. (@volmatch) Then break it down further to 3-month chunks. (@wendymarinaccio)
  6. Rule of 3: Identify no more than 3 target audiences for your messages or you risk diffusing your efforts. (@stacydyer)
  7. Meet your audiences where they are (channels and perspectives). (@weinrichc)
  8. Put all of your marketing material (print out the online stuff, color printer) on a table; see if there is consistency throughout. Great way to build leadership buy-in for the need for marketing planning. (@weinrichc)
  9. Vital part of marketing planning is outlining every single task down to the nitty gritty – who is doing what when. (@volmatch)
  10. Your brand is not just “clothes you wear” (e.g., logo and colors). It’s your organization’s whole personality-the way you walk & talk. (@linzbilks)
  11. Failures are what our successes are built on. (@mkdm, @andystitt829)

What are your strategies for weaving your marketing loose ends into a tight marketing plan, and what impact does that have on your results? Please share your experience here.

Thanks much to co-presenters Karen Secular, Arnold P. Gold Foundation; and Tara Collins, Watershed Agricultural Council.

P.S. Get a jump start on your marketing planning via the Total Focus Marketing Plan Workshop led by Kivi Leroux Miller and me. Karen and Tara participated last fall with great results! 2011 workshops are scheduled for June 16 in Seattle and October 12 in New York City.

Learn more now–the workshops sold out last year and 2011 seats are going fast!

How to Stay Sane, Creative & Productive: The Nonprofit Marketing Balancing Act (#11ntcbalance)

I have so much to do but don’t know where to start!

That’s the crucial–but seldom acknowledged or discussed–challenge on which I co-led a vibrant mind meld recently, along with talented colleagues Katya Andresen, Sarah Durham and Kivi Leroux Miller.

We were thrilled at the number of participants and their level of engagement. In fact, discussion got so lively we were hushed by the organizer of the session in the next room! That request exemplifies the excitement of the crowd in discussing this stuff and in meeting each other–brainstorming partners in the making.

Here are the seven crucial steps to staying sane, creative and productive in your nonprofit marketing life, drawn from our one-minute consulting on participant queries and participants’ recommendations:

  1. Get priorities right
  2. Balance is crucial between marketing and fundraising efforts, not just within marketing
  3. Manage up and build leadership buy-in on priorities you set
  4. Balance incoming requests (agency model) when you’re acting more strategically (i.e. you have your own job to do)
  5. Do the internal marketing necessary to build support, investment and a team of messengers among your colleagues
  6. Cut down your program (Hint – don’t cut a channel if it’s working, just scale back your effort)
  7. Break up with social media if the ROI isn’t there.

What do you have to add? Please share what works for you here.

More guidance on sanity for nonprofit marketers here.

Transform Your Supporters into Powerful Marketers (#11ntcwom)

Here’s how your nonprofit can win — big-time — with word-of-mouth marketing (w-o-m):
Put traditional community organizing strategies to work.

A Heartbeat Isn’t Enough: Your Nonprofit Must Be Remarkable

  1. Your marketing — online and offline — must be remarkable to be recognized, remembered, passed on and acted on.
  2. But…many of your routine offline and online marketing tactics — the email, fundraising direct mail and other “stuff” you implement daily — are unremarkable, inefficient and, as a result, counterproductive! They are just heartbeats.
  3. The most effective nonprofit marketing teams scale their work by being remarkable so they’re remarked upon.
  4. That means your organization will get a good deal of your marketing done for you  — for free — by your most committed and passionate fans. And there’s nothing better than others’ talking about you; it’s human instinct to mistrust those who trumpet their own strengths.
  5. Word-of-mouth happens only when you provide a remarkable experience for them by being incredibly effective, unique, bold, creative and repeatable.
  6. Two steps to get there:
  • Create a remarkable relationship. A reliable path is linking your focus to what your supporters want to change in the world. The Howard Dean campaign motivated its supporters to go far beyond the usual tasks, asking them to host or join house parties.
  • Engage supporters in meaningful, engaging activity and continue to move them to higher levels of engagement. Vancouver’s Talk Green to Us site engages its citizenry by providing multiple ways to interact, from proposing ideas to commenting or voting on submitted ideas. Make your asks bite-sized so the point-of-entry is low.

5-Star Word-of-Mouth Models

  • Greenpeace’s fundraising campaign/site for the second Rainbow Warrior features compelling storytelling, a fantastic 3-D rendering of the ship, and the opportunity to fund individual parts of the boat.
  • The University of Kentucky has put giant Facebook place icons throughout the campus to showcase its connectivity to prospective students. As students check in with their friends via Facebook, they also spread the word on the University. This is a perfect offline/online connection.

For more insight into word-of-mouth marketing, review the session slide deck here.

Please share your questions and recommendations on word-of-mouth marketing here.

Thanks to Michael Silberman of Echo Ditto and Darren Barefoot of Biro Creative for sharing their creative guidance on w-o-m, which has huge potential to increase your nonprofit marketing impact.

Nancy Schwartz in Strategies and Campaigns | 1 comment

© 2002 - 2018 Nancy E. Schwartz. All rights reserved.

You’re welcome to “reprint” this article online as long as you do not alter the article in any way, and you include the author byline and attribution as displayed below. If you would like to edit the article, please contact us.

Please use this byline

By Nancy E. Schwartz
Publisher – / President – Nancy Schwartz & Company

Please use this attribution (at the beginning or end of article):

Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing. Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to nonprofit organizations and foundations nationwide. She is the publisher of the Getting Attention e-update and blog. For more nonprofit marketing guidance like this, subscribe to her e-update at

Complete article listing