Sometimes the most practical marketing advice you receive is the simplest.
I've been spending the summer tackling a long list of marketing and business books I've been wanting to read: The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, Permission Marketing by Seth Godin, etc.
While these books primarily target entrepreneurs and business owners, I have found that most of the advice contained within is equally relevant (and has profound implications for) those who manage, operate and market nonprofits. At the end of the day marketing is marketing, and no matter if you are running a fortune 500 company or a small nonprofit the core elements of marketing remain largely similar.
The most useful piece of marketing advice I received during the course of my reading came from John Jantsch's book Duct Tape Marketing. In his book Jantsch defines marketing broadly as "getting people who have a specific need or problem to know, like, trust, do business with, and refer you to others who have this same need or problem".
Let's forget about the specific need or problem for a moment and apply these five elements of marketing to the nonprofit model. Much like a political campaign, any "successful" nonprofit (which of course we can define in a variety of ways) will at the very least need to attract a base of supporters and financial contributions. Let's see how you measure up.
Try this quick audit to see how well your nonprofit is marketing itself:
Do your donors and supporters know you? Are you present in the community? If we asked someone on the street would they know who your organization is and what your organization does? Do you need to remind donors about who you are? Are you known locally or nationally?
Do your donors and supporters like you? Do they like the work you are engaged in and your strategic approach? Do they participate in your online communities and offline events? Do they supply you with positive feedback? Are donors happy and willing to engage in partnership with your organization?
Do your donors and supporters trust you? Do they trust you will perform at the highest standard of ethics and according to best practices or evidence-based strategies? Do they trust the money they donate will get used wisely and effectively?
Do your donors and supporters do business with you? Do they contribute support (financial, volunteer, etc.) on a consistent basis? Do you have a surplus of innovative partnerships and financial contributions?
Do your donors and supporters refer you? Do they tell their friends and colleagues about your organization? Do they share your campaigns on social networks? Do your supporters fundraise on your behalf?
Marketing your cause or organization does not have to be complicated. What strategies does your nonprofit find most effective for getting donors and supports to know, like and trust you?