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Opinion: Successful Marketing Guide for Not-for-Profit Organisations

Charities and NFPs operate in a challenging space, fishing in a small, overcrowded pond, often with limited resources, funds and competing demands.

As the Australian Director of Superdream, I have worked with many not-for-profits and charities, helping them raise awareness, funds and volunteers. Despite the many differences thousands of not-for-profits have operating throughout Australia, there are a few key marketing areas that when addressed correctly, can determine the difference between success and failure. For that, I’m sharing our agency’s  how-to marketing guide for NFPs.

#1 Know your audience
Your audience is not a concrete, set-and-forget element of marketing. The individuals you are seeking change constantly. They age, go through different life stages, change their media consumption habits, shift their loyalties and move into new areas. Organisations that understand this, and pivot accordingly, see greater growth and success.

One of our clients recently told me that their key audience is ‘empty nesters, aged 55+’, but that recently they’d seen a decline in this audience volunteering. Now, a 55yo today was born in 1964. They are still 10 years off retirement. They often have adult children living at home or are seen as an affordable childcare option for their grandkids. Compared to previous generations, the nest is still very much full, and time for volunteering is scarce. You cannot rely on each generation to look and act the same as the one before.

# 2 Know who you are
Many NFPs are long-standing brands that have changed, evolved and grown over the years. These changes have brought new services and ways of working. The ability to concisely communicate who you are and what you do is vital. People need to know what makes you different, better, and the best. If your organisation has evolved, you need to ensure your brand evolves with it.

A simple way to test if your brand is doing the job of communicating your ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’, is to hold an internal survey asking staff to describe who your organisation is in a simple sentence. A strong and healthy brand will see very similar responses that define your mission. When you see a wild variation on this message, you might need an audit. Your people are your brand ambassadors so it’s vital that they can communicate what makes your brand unique.

# 3 Be creative
The NFP and charity sector yields the most amount of noise and competition. You need to stand out from the rest in your sector. It’s time to start thinking more creatively about how you share you message.

We helped our client Key Assets raise awareness of the need for more foster carers through our campaign ‘Can I Foster’ which included a viral social experiment. We could have easily just issued a media release with the key messages and statistics, but we knew we needed to think more creatively to get the coverage and level of exposure we needed. Including the creative aspect of the social experiment is what helped us secure more than 85 media articles, 4 TV features and more than a million video views on social media. Most importantly It resulted in thousands of enquiries from people interested in becoming foster carers.  Thinking more creatively about how you share your messages is the key to powerful results.

# 4 Make your marketing work
It is not always the case that to do more you need to spend more. No matter what your budget is, a strategic and data-driven marketing plan that takes the full user journey into account, will yield the best results. Often it takes the objectivity of an outsider to see the forest for the trees.
Responsible investment of your hard-won marketing budget needs to centre around clear objectives, measures and tracking, so you can show with certainty what works and what doesn’t. Drilling down into the path a person takes to interact with your brand almost always reveals a weak link in the chain that, when strengthened, can save thousands. Fresh eyes are invaluable in identifying pain points.

Kirsty Visman is the Australian Director at Superdream, an international, full-service agency working with delivering branding, digital, events, video production, animation, PR, advertising and social service. She has over a decade of industry experience on the agency side of marketing and communications, and have worked with over 70 local, national and international brands.

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