Marketing, at its core, is all about telling a story. In that respect, it’s very similar to journalism (which is why many journalists end up becoming marketers or PR specialists). When you’re marketing for a small business, or any business for that matter, you have to get people to understand why they need what you’re selling and how it will change their lives. You have to paint a picture describing the person they will become if they buy your product or service. You have to create that persona and sell it to them.
What are you selling?
Marketing for nonprofits is different because what you’re “selling” can’t be packaged and sent to the donor. The gift you’re promising them is inherently meant for someone else. And, though there is plenty of good in this world, there is also a lot of selfishness. So how can you get people to give money without getting anything in return?
Like marketing for small businesses, you have to tell a story. Most nonprofits use the “what if” angle. What if YOU were in this situation and needed help? What if YOU had a loved one facing a challenge? Wouldn’t you want other people to give to help you and your family?
Another alternative would be encouraging, rather than scaring. How will THEIR life be better if they donate? How will THEY feel? What difference will their donation make TO THEM? A lot of times, the best way to inspire donations is to inspire people and, in many cases, incentivize their giving.
An idea, not a product
Marketing for nonprofits means selling something completely intangible. You have to sell an idea. But at its core, that’s what all marketing is. It’s selling the idea of what your life would be like if you hand that money away. Only, in this case, you have to prove that the warm fuzzy feelings that come with donating money are just as worthwhile as the product or service they’d get if they bought something instead. And THAT isn’t an easy thing to do.
Just remember: We don’t want a product or a service. We don’t want to just give money for no reason. No — we want to feel better. We want to feel happy, secure, loved, wanted, and cared for. And we want to feel good about ourselves. Your messaging, whether for a business or nonprofit, has to accomplish those goals. It has to prove that you will achieve those aims if you spend that money.
No matter what you’re selling, at the end of the day, that’s what marketing is all about.
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