Stealing Smart: For-Profit Best Practices for Nonprofits
The amount of marketing research that has been done over the years in the commercial sector is staggering. Thanks to technological advances that many for-profits are quick to adopt and test, there are all sorts of lessons the for-profits have already learned for nonprofits when it comes to marketing.
The most obvious is knowing the audience. Big companies from Coca-Cola to Comcast to Disney know their customers like the backs of their hands. They build customer profiles and personas, using data to both understand and then market to their audiences, tailoring messages based on behavior, preferences and makeup. Nonprofits should be doing this too.
"Many nonprofits don't have a good demographic profile of their donors or prospective donors," Delaney says. "They might know foundation donors, big donors, but it takes a while to really understand individual donors. … The better you know donors, the better you can talk to them, write requests that really strike home."
That means having the right people in the right seats to gather information from donors. Nonprofits must solicit feedback and utilize the data they collect in the same way for-profit companies survey consumers and note their interactions and behaviors with their brands.
While nonprofits are really good at evaluating the impact of their activities on the recipients of their services — i.e., built this many houses, fed this many people, saved this many animals — most aren't as good at understanding and relaying how those hits to the website were driven and what actions led to a donation. Tracking data and the donor journey is critical in retaining and acquiring donors — which is why for-profits spend so much time and effort understanding their customers and mapping their paths to purchase.
When it comes to actual marketing, no one is better than the commercial world. Christine Rizk, co-founder and president of charity re-commerce destination Fashion Project, says providing clear storytelling and showing impact are keys to successful nonprofit marketing — just as they are for for-profit companies. Big brands like Apple are great at relaying stories in their ads, visually displaying the impact their products have on the people who purchase them. If you buy an iPod, you'll have a richer, more convenient music listening experience, for example.