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for non-profit agencies

Marketing plans crucial
for non-profit agencies

Marketing and marketing plans long have been associated with companies that are in business to make a profit. It’s hard to find a for-profit company that doesn’t have some kind of written marketing plan. Conversely, it has been my experience that written marketing plans for non- profit organizations are rare. I suspect the reason for this is that most non-profit organizations do not consider themselves to be marketers, per se, nor do they see themselves in competition the same way profit-oriented companies do.
Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.
Today, more than ever before, non- profit organizations face severe competition for customers and funding, and their survival may well depend on their ability to market themselves, and their products or services.
Michael Osborn, chairman of the Advertising Council of Rochester, a non-profit organization that provides pro-bono marketing and communications support to non-profit organizations, recently gave a presentation to the National Society of Fund Raising Executives on how to develop a marketing plan.
In this presentation, Osborn pointed out that marketing first of all is a process, one undertaken to 1) determine who you serve, 2) understand their needs, 3) develop products and services to meet those needs, and finally, 4) deliver the product or service to those who have the need.
He emphasized that the success of a non-profit organization depends as much on people outside the agency–those served (clients, patients, customers), other agencies, members, donors and community leaders–as it does on those within.
A well-thought-out marketing plan in written form helps bring together the independent activities of those within the agency and those outside it in a cohesive, synergistic way in order to meet overall program objectives. The best way to develop a marketing plan is to use internal analysis and external analysis to produce the following:
–Self-assessment
–Marketing objectives
–Target audience
–Action plan
The internal-analysis section should include a statement of your organization’s mission, objectives, goals and culture.
Every organization’s marketing plan should have a mission statement. It should be short and state the basic purpose of the organization–what it’s trying to accomplish. For example, United Way’s mission is “to increase the organized capacity of people to care for one another.”
Objectives are major variables that the organizations will emphasize, such as market share, reputation and so on. Colleges, for instance, might want to increase their national reputation, see higher enrollment or build a larger endowment.
Goals are simply objectives made specific with respect to magnitude, time and responsibility. In the case of a college, the institution might be looking for a 15 percent enrollment increase or a 5 percent increase in endowment by year-end.
Perhaps the most overlooked internal analysis in any organization is its corporate culture. It may be the most important determinant of what an organization can achieve. Culture is how individuals react to one another in the organization. Do they feel empowered to act? Do they respect, support and like each other?
Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, in their book “In Search of Excellence,” wrote, “The stronger the culture and the more it is directed to the marketplace, the less the need for policy manuals, organization charts, or detailed procedures and rules. People down the line know what they are supposed to do in most situations because the handful of guiding values is crystal clear.”
The external analysis of a marketing plan should include a review of constituents (those such as volunteers or donors who patronize or support the organization), customers and other publics. This analysis should answer: Who are they? What are their needs? How do they perceive the organization in terms of quality, price and service? How do they compare you to the competition?
Once this internal and external analysis has been accomplished and a self-assessment is made regarding how the organization ranks in terms of its own strengths and weaknesses, realistic marketing objectives can be established.
An important element once marketing objectives have been set is to clearly define your organization’s target audience. This target audience should be segmented by: customers, constituents and other publics, as well as by differences as to their interests, needs, perceptions and size. The objective in defining your target audience is to reach the most important prospects in terms of usage or influence, and avoid spending time and resources on relatively unimportant audiences or prospects.
The action plan is a listing of what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it, with details on tactics. Each tactic of the action plan should include: an objective, action items, resources required, who’s responsible, a time frame and a budget.
After the action plan has been implemented, measure its performance. Determine if you’ve met your goals, and if not, that becomes part of your self- assessment for future planning.
In writing a marketing plan, don’t worry about getting it right. Worry about getting it done. Because in my experience, it’s hard to fix something you don’t have.
(Jack Kraushaar was a BBDO senior vice president in New York City and from 1983 to 1991 was chairman of Blair/BBDO in Rochester. He now is president of the consulting firm JFK Communications in East Rochester.)

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