If you work in the world of non-profits, you may have already realized that marketing is… complex. It might be so complex you don’t even realize you’re “marketing” or you don’t have a clear marketing plan.

From our various work in non-profits, we’ve realized a few things. You’ve got an extra large plateful of people you have to market to. Not only are you responsible to your organization’s mission, but you’ve got donors, sponsors, volunteers, the community to keep up with.

Today, we’re breaking it down a bit:

1. Clientele or Program beneficiaries:

This is your audience of those who your services will be provided to. If you’re a shelter, how do you get the word out to people in need of a place to stay?

Defining the Target Market here should be fairly easy as it is dependent on your official mission. (If your mission is too vague… you may need to start with reshaping it to be more clear). You will likely be able to define demographic info such as location, age, income level, interests/social issue.

Direct Outreach: Find common or complimentary organizations/locations where your target clients may be. Ensuring that other organizations who have a common target know about what you offer and have a way to share that with their clients will help bring people to your door. This might include business cards, brochures or flyers that can be easily handed out.

Messaging: Make sure people know that you can solve their problem or get them the help they need. What exactly are you providing, to whom, when and where? This information should be included on all marketing materials as well as ingrained in all of your staff and volunteers who may interact with potential clientele.

Building Relationships: You have the ability to really help people through getting to know them, providing support and knowledge of where else they may need to go to get what they need, and being able to create a success story to help others in the future.

2. Individual donors:

As we wrote a bit about in last week’s article, individual donors play a major role in many non-profits and, we’re willing to bet, that you could be doing even more to ensure this group is continually coming back to continue to support your mission.

This group might seem a little less targeted, but people often give to organizations that have a mission that speaks to them and their own experience. While your outreach might be a bit more generalized, the stories you tell about how you are helping the community will surely connect with the right people.

Direct Outreach: There are many community groups in this region full of people interested in supporting the work you do. Taking every opportunity to speak directly with these groups, attend meetings, or share your message will be key in finding new donors. Also, be sure to invite them to learn more about what you’re doing!

Messaging: Always have a few client stories ready to tell when reaching out to potential donors. People want to know what benefit you are providing the community and real life stories are always the best way to share that message. And don’t forget to include a short and simple “call to action” on how they can help! Make it easy to donate – on your website or in person.

Building Relationships: We mentioned this last week, but you need to maintain a database of contact information on previous donors (if you don’t already)! Consider a doing outreach by mail a few times a year, give an update on what you have been doing, statistics and stories… and then ask for a donation or include an invite to an event… and make them feel good for helping!

3. Volunteers/staff:

If you rely on volunteers for daily work or for special events, it’s important to create easy ways for potential volunteers to join, such as very clear descriptions of volunteer roles and timeframes listed on your website or direct outreach.

A common issue I see in our region is volunteer burn out, likely because we reach into a very small pot of potential volunteers and use them until they can’t handle it anymore! It’s important to have a wide array of people who can play their part. Try your best to think outside the box when finding volunteers rather than reusing the same people from within your organization or those people who seem to volunteer everywhere else already.

Direct outreach: Create a volunteer specific brochure or webpage that gives clear guidance to potential volunteers. Then, reach out to your donor list, past successful clients, community groups and churches, workplaces, and school groups who may be in need of volunteer opportunities.

Messaging: Again.. Tell stories! But this time, tell about the volunteers. Celebrate their help and thoughtfully share about their experience working with your organization. This will make it less scary and ensure a trust with potential volunteers that you WON’T BE BURNING THEM OUT.

Building relationships: Work hard to understand why your volunteers are here and provide them with support, again do not burn them out! Make them feel good by hosting a volunteer appreciation day, highlighting their important work in your outreach, or giving small tokens or gifts once a year.

4. Grant funders/community stakeholders:

We lump these two together, because their basic interest is in the community at large. This target includes those you apply with for funding but also the general community who have an interest in your success. those who want to know you are doing well because it affects their region and own success.

Direct Outreach: Grant applications! We mentioned some tips last week. This target might also be interested in newsletters they can sign up for, but you also have the opportunity to reach the public through building a positive image and sharing your work through press releases, partnerships, and community involvement.

Messaging: Be clear and concise, like a business you need to know your numbers, the benefits your organization provides, your “competition” and “complimentary” organizations, and why you should exist. What makes you unique? We’ve noticed a lot of overlap in non-profit work in Grays Harbor, so make sure you know why you exist and how to clearly state that message.

Building relationships: This varies, but you can easily build relationships with the community by being involved in various community groups or staying in tune with opportunities, newsletters, doing good public relations work, and ensuring you are building a positive image through storytelling and high quality messaging (both verbal and photography).

Among all of these targets, there will likely be overlap and each group can provide a feedback loop into your other target areas. A client may become a volunteer. A community member may become a donor. A grant board member may become a private donor.

Build your marketing plan to ensure that each of these target groups are well defined and have specific work associated with them directly.