The Need-to-Know Nonprofit Marketing Techniques

It’s easy to for an organization to focus disproportionately on financial gain, engaging in popular marketing methods that conflict with the organization’s image and values. In the case of nonprofits, there is considerable thought that should be taken before deploying any kind of campaign. Of course, the considerations may be quite different for a traditional business selling a wide range of products to consumers. Below is a list of 3 differences to consider when marketing for nonprofit versus for-profit organizations.

  1. Educate: While traditional marketing methods often focus on how a product or service will enhance a consumer’s life, a nonprofit must properly educate consumers on how their donation will help serve a purpose in another individual’s life. This is not always easy to convey;  if it doesn’t relate to that individual directly it is sometimes easy for the potential contributor to lose interest.

To make up for this, it is especially important for nonprofit organizations to educate consumers. Nonprofits must create a compelling story so their audience can see just how they will be involved in a transformative process: the problem, the proposed contribution, and the benefit to the community or individual. While a company selling a car does not have to tell customers that their purchase allows them to drive to work or pick up their child from school, Feeding America does have to explain that a $1 donation provides 10 meals to families in need.

         2. Use of emotion: It is essential to educate consumers about true benefits of their                     contribution, but another necessary marketing technique for nonprofits is the use of                 emotional appeal. This differs from a traditional for-profit organization because the                   goal isn’t to promote the use of a product in their life, but to create a passion for the               values of the nonprofit. The aim isn’t simply to gain a donation, but to generate                         awareness and energy around the larger issue for each campaign. Doing so is just                     about the hardest task for a nonprofit, which is why creating an emotional response                 from a consumer is necessary.


You may recall some of the marketing campaigns that various nonprofit animal shelters and rights organizations have used to raise donations. They have used videos and images of dogs and cats in terrible living situations, facing hunger and abuse. The responses that viewers have to these visuals can (and have) lead to numerous donations to the organizations that help these animals. This is a prime example of how emotional appeal can be a great way to reach audiences if you’re a nonprofit organization.


3. Communication: After a customer purchases a product from a local retailer they are left with their newly bought item to look back upon. Nonprofits are different because it is unlikely that their donors will have a tangible reminder of their engagement with the organization. This increases the importance of communication for nonprofits. They must not only thank each person that donates to their organization but also show what effect their contribution has made. In fact, in a recent study, it was found that 60% of donors want to receive stories from the nonprofit they contributed to in order to better see the concrete difference made by their contribution. This communication can vary from an invitation to a special event to sending regular email updates. The goal is to remind donors of their thoughtful donation and why they should be proud of their involvement. We recommend personalized, handwritten letters.  

One organization that uses this technique is Children International. They provide sponsors with letters, annual updates, and photos of their sponsored child; they even offer the opportunity to visit with the sponsored child. This kind of communication shows the actual efforts of the organization and provides contributors with something they can look at to remember their donation.

At Conscious Collaborative, our team develops marketing strategies for nonprofits and for-profit organizations around the United States. Check out our services, and learn more about the ways that we can help your organization develop a personalized campaign and reach even more people in your community.