Best Practices for Nonprofit Marketing

In the nonprofit sectors the executive team, and those who manage the finances of the organization, consider their ‘market share’ to be a foregone conclusion. Contracts and referrals are ongoing, and usually from the same sources that fund the organization’s programs. As a result, marketing can be a difficult thing to place front & center; the organization is usually already running at capacity and does not need to increase membership.

On the other hand, organization’s are always starving for more capital to fund areas not covered by existing funding & grants. Similarly, the ‘warm and fuzzy’ images that are so popular on social media are not readily available in the nonprofit sector where confidentiality guides decision making around everything involving communications and content creation.

Additional funding is often necessary to cover admin, facilities, and other operational expenses; and are usually not captured well by readily available funding sources. Marketing and public relations helps support fundraising, improve the organization’s standing in the community, increase the organization’s credibility, and subsequently (as a result of the previous areas) can present as stimulus to improve upon the organization’s thought leadership, expertise, and expansion in certain areas.

The challenge is that government funders are often hesitant to support organization expansion, with the premise that there should be multiple service providers & experts in a given area. So in additional to increasing the organization’s ability to raise funds – expansion areas to emphasize would be those that are not funded through the public sector.

Additional considerations:

  • Understand the content you are able to share & development
  • Identify your customer characteristics, and what information they would be interested in
  • Identify what social media channel is best suited for what customer group (twitter seems better suited for tech & informational content; Facebook seems better suited for photos ‘warm and fuzzy’ content
  • Identify what channels are currently being engaged; identify their success, issues, and areas for improvement
  • Identify who is managing the existing channels; can they be linked, and share content?
  • What is the budget for marketing?
  • What are the organization’s communications & marketing priorities? Fundraising? Service expansion? Customer Development?

Just a few ideas. Share your thoughts & suggestions below.


Travis Barker, MPA GCPM
Innovate Vancouver

[email protected] 


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