Study Marketing to Advance Your Nonprofit Career
My goal in life was to be a lawyer, but that required a foreign language in college. Because of a Spanish class my first semester in college, I decided to change majors and major in marketing. I took a Spanish class, and the professor didn’t show up for weeks as he was coming from Columbia. After weeks of no-shows, he decided to arrive near mid-semester and immediately taught the class as if we had been learning from him all year.
I immediately dropped the class, went down to 13 hours and had to make it up with 19 hours in my second semester. I changed majors and dreams. I am glad I changed directions. I immediately fell in love with a focus on business and marketing. I have used my marketing background since my first day in the nonprofit world.
An article by The Balance outlined the concept nonprofit marketing as the use of marketing tactics by a nonprofit organization to promote the message and the organization, as well as raising donations. Marketing helps nonprofits connect with donors and volunteers. It is challenging as nonprofits must convince various audiences to give resources without expectation of anything concrete in return.
According to the article, nonprofit marketing creates awareness, promotes causes and services, fundraises, encourages engagement and ongoing donations, plus engages volunteers. This is typically done through message-focused campaigns and event marketing.
A couple challenges that the article outlines are that marketing nonprofit ideas and values that can be more difficult than selling for-profit goods or services, and nonprofits typically have limited budgets for advertising or limitless social media exploration.
A good understanding of traditional marketing techniques is as essential for marketing a nonprofit as it is for marketing a for-profit business. Nonprofits need to use free and inexpensive marketing platforms — such as online ads, partnerships, email marketing, events, public relations and webinars — to get their message out.
According to Deluxe, five reasons marketing is important is because marketing informs people as to why they should support your organization; marketing engages others and keeps your organization in mind after a transaction is over; marketing builds reputations and it spreads the positive word to others that separates you from the pack; marketing sells and extends your reach and draws attention to your organization; plus marketing grows your business through education and keeping your target markets engaged. Daily, you are marketing yourself and your organization to the external world. Shouldn’t you consider marketing as a possible college major if you intend to make a career in the resource development world?
An article by Way Up states that if you love everything about creating and selling a new product to the audience of your choice, majoring in marketing may be right up your alley. Marketing majors study the art and science of figuring out what people want. And armed with knowledge, they create a means to sell to a targeted demographic. A marketing major learns advertising and promotion, marketing communications, public relations, market research, consumer behavior, market strategy, management and sales. A marketing degree can prepare you for many fields of endeavor.
According to an article from Entrepreneur, elements engaged in a marketing degree include advertising, journalism and English. It provides you with strong written and oral communication skills, plus the aspect of business administration that educates students about managing people, processes and budgets. Marketing programs for majors include aspects of creativity and analytical thinking.
By securing internships and work experience during college, you will gain practical skills and add credentials to your resume. A marketing degree will open many doors for you as it is an integral in-demand job for many companies. That said, according to International Student, marketing isn’t for everyone. To be successful, you will need to be creative and self-motivated, team-oriented and very detail-oriented.
In a Points and Figures article, it states that marketing will be the most important business degree for the next 20 years. Marketing majors must sift through data, find insights and sell. Marketing allows companies to make inferences about their customers and potential target markets.
I am currently working on a capital campaign. I will list a few of the daily tasks that I must face. Please review these items and see if there are marketing implications to these tasks:
- Creation of a portfolio of potential fundraising prospects (marketing research)
- Recruitment of new volunteers and keeping current volunteers informed (marketing communications)
- Creation and continual refinement to the case for support (marketing information, branding, writing, etc.)
- Presentations to individuals, staff, external groups, etc. (marketing communications)
- Meetings with fundraising consultants, campaign external leaders and prospects (marketing public relations and selling)
The list goes on and on. The point is that if you intend to make a career of being a nonprofit executive, you should consider having a business and marketing degree. A nonprofit organization is like a business. Nonprofits exist to provide a service to the community, according to Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD.
I use my marketing degree to a great extent every day, in many ways. I encourage you to consider either obtaining a marketing degree or taking courses in this discipline. It will enhance your credentials prospects for success over time.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.