In 2009, Texas had more than 104,000 nonprofit organizations, with a total combined income of more than $37 billion. More than 20,000 of the state’s nonprofits are in Harris County, which includes the city of Houston. In any locale, nonprofit organizations range in size from large charities, such as Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Salvation Army, to small, local charities, such as churches and after-school programs.
Whatever the organization’s size, a marketing plan is essential for survival. Sometimes a nonprofit feels that acting like a business is “selling out.” But marketing isn’t selling out; it’s planning strategically to serve a community more effectively. A marketing plan also encourages leaders to brainstorm ideas and explore opportunities.
Here are some questions to answer when you craft your marketing plan:
1. Who is our target market? Focus on those who are interested in what you offer. As you identify your market, you will unearth new opportunities to serve those who need what you provide.
2. What do we want to accomplish through our marketing efforts? This is called “the desired outcome.”
3. What kind of materials will best get the word out about our organization? This targets your communication strategy. Whatever you choose — brochures, website, personal letters, events — your plan should be geared to letting others know the value of your nonprofit.
4. How can we take advantage of social media? Twitter and Facebook can help you reach those who might be interested in your nonprofit. They can connect you to people you may not meet otherwise.
5. Do we need a website? A website is a way to disseminate information and news. You can post your monthly newsletter, announce events, showcase volunteers, and tell the benefits of your organization.
6. How do we keep track of our supporters and volunteers? You need a customer database for basic information tracking, but use your donation list for mailings, calls, and invitations. Use it also for analysis and research. Data is power.
7. How do we demonstrate our worth? Our successes? Plan how you are going to show the achievements of your nonprofit. Determine the best way to publicize people who have benefitted from your services, the activities you have initiated, and the projects that have made a difference to others.
8. Who else can help us meet our service objectives? Explore alliances with other organizations and businesses. Maybe a marketing firm will volunteer to help you with the website.
Crafting a marketing plan takes some analysis and thought, but it will give direction to a nonprofit. Think of the marketing plan as a roadmap that leads the organization where they want to go.