6 Common Marketing Mistakes of Non-Profits

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A lot of non-profit organizations struggle with marketing efforts. They wonder, “Isn’t it obvious we are a good organization forwarding a good cause?”

The answer is, no. Not unless you have a tight marketing strategy. One that hits home with your target audience and gives people cause to open their wallets year after year. If you know the common mistakes most organizations make, it’s easy to figure out a strategy that works and gives a larger ROI.

  1. Not Using Stories.

Stories are the heart of your marketing. Think about it. What makes you want to go to a certain bar or cafe, send your child to a specific college, or hire “John Doe” the accountant?

Studies have found consumers are “50% more likely to be influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations from their peers than by radio/TV ads.”

Interview volunteers, donors, and outside groups that benefited from your organization’s efforts. Use their stories to help tell your story.

  1. Not Grabbing the Reader’s Attention Right Away.

The headline of an ad, or the first sentence of a fundraising letter, is what hooks your reader.

In this high-speed age of technology, people are used to scanning. If you can’t catch someone’s attention from the start, you’ve lost him. For example, take a look at the following headlines:

Boring: “Nonprofit Arts Organization Offers Corporate Sponsorship Programs.”

Better: “Increase Your Visibility Through Corporate Sponsorship.”

Want to learn more about grabbing your visitors attention? Get more info here.

  1. Writing for Colleagues Rather Than Readers.

Mentioning how wonderful your staff, services, programs, or organization is has the potential to bore your reader.

The truth is, no one cares if you implemented a new web interface that makes it easier for you to accept credit cards online.

Focus instead on highlighting the organization’s mission. Promote the cause and the accomplishments the organization has achieved through its mission. How has your organization benefited others, the community, the world?

  1. Using the Word “We.”

Ever been at a party and got stuck with someone who went on and on about themselves? All you can do is look for the quick escape.

By changing your verbiage to the second person, you immediately make the story about your reader. For example:

Bad: “We have many art programs available to help children see the world in a different light.”

Better: “You can open the world to your child through our art programs.”

  1. Not Personalizing the Features of Your Organization.

Personal benefits of your features provide your reader with initiative to, once again, open their wallet. What’s in it for them?

This is not to say people are selfish and will only give if they get something out of it. Your organization would not exist if this were true. Nevertheless, people still need personal reasons to give. A sense of doing right in the world doesn’t work with a majority of people out there. Example:

Feature: Arts programs in low-income communities.

Benefit: Diverse cultural experiences for people of all ages and income brackets.

  1. Not Proofreading or Editing Fundraising Materials.

This is probably the most basic, yet oft-overlooked mistake.

Many times, marketing departments in non-profits are on tight deadlines and are understaffed. This leaves little time to set aside letters, copy or other fundraising materials for the 24-hour breather, or to pass materials around to the staff for input.

Nevertheless, because marketing budgets are tight, it’s even more important to make sure your copy oozes professionalism, conciseness, and above all, accuracy in order to get the most out of your marketing bucks.

Give your copy the 24-hour breather. Then pick it up again, and take a fresh look at it. See it from the eyes of your audience. Pass it around the office to a few key people for input. Then, tighten it up, and send it to press.

If all else fails, you can always out-source to a freelancer who can breathe fresh air into your reports or marketing pieces. Or, hire them right from the start if your budget allows. This will free up your marketing staff to oversee things from the big picture.

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