Marketing for nonprofit and for-profit businesses is similar

Marketing for a nonprofit organization and for a for-profit business shares a lot of similarities. I think that is a difficult concept because on occasion I am asked how different it is for me to market for one versus the other.

Looking at the promotional side of marketing, there are two subcategories that are very similar. Those are “advertising” and “public relations.” These are so close in what they do that sometimes they are mistaken for one another.

Public relations is not nonpaid advertising. Yes, nonpaid advertising can be and usually is an action item under the public relations umbrella, but public relations is so much more than not having to pay for an ad.

Where a business has a paid staff, a nonprofit organization also has a paid staff and a cadre of volunteers. I have found that the volunteers can often be most passionate toward the cause of the nonprofit organization. It is this passion that motivates them to volunteer.

Both nonprofit organizations and business have audiences to whom they want to deliver their messages and have the audiences respond. Both have influencers, who are the group that the audiences tend to follow. Both have messages to share. Think of an influencer is one who is willing to pitch your product or service because they believe in it and in you; they are your unpaid salesforce.

Where a business will pay for advertising, a nonprofit organization relies a lot on nonpaid messages. By paying for the ad space, the business gets to choose when and where the message will appear. Nonpaid media does not necessarily have that luxury, although a lot of media vehicles will work with nonprofit agencies to help promote the message if they have the space available. One of the benefits of living in North Mississippi is that, as they are able, the media will help out.

There are other sources that can help. Social media is a great way to spread messages. I see that the audiences on social media are usually larger and more engaging for nonprofit organizations than for businesses. In my opinion, this goes back to the passion of those involved with nonprofit organizations. Businesses do a little better job of “speaking with one voice” in their social media messaging as there is more of an element of control.

Think of a nonprofit organization with which you are affiliated. It could be a church, school-related or cause-related. Think of the messages you receive from them. The messages created follow the same process that the messages for a for-profit company would use. It’s about finding and reaching the right audience and encouraging an action from the audience that benefits both the organization and the audience member. A marketing plan written for a nonprofit organization follows the same process and is indistinguishable from a for-profit business.

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