Why Nonprofit Marketing Matters

Just recently, I met someone at a gathering who told me that “nonprofits should not market or do public relations.”  Being in the business, I asked why? Their answer was straight and simple.  “Because if they do good work, everybody will know, and if they are worthy of support, they will receive it.”

I found this answer interesting yet curious.  If this is the case, they why does any product advertise?  Why does McDonald’s spent hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising if they offer a product people want and virtually everybody knows about?

Why should any company market itself?  The old adage, “if you build it, they will come,” seems logical.  But is it true?

The comment from this individual wasn’t about marketing in general, but nonprofit marketing.  Somehow this person (I am purposely avoiding mentioning where it is a he or she) believe that nonprofits exist to serve the public and that should be enough.  They should not spend money on marketing because that money should go to their work.  I guess in that case, nonprofits should not have paid CEOs because they will run themselves.

Unfortunately, the reality is much different.  Nonprofits that rely on funding without asking for it, often find themselves left behind.  Study after study has backed this up.  Research shows that the number one reason people give money to a particular charity is simply because someone asked them.

Yes, some philanthropists has passions and seek out organizations that do that work.  But few do Google searches for a nonprofit and then write a million dollar check because they life their website.

Marketing strategy drives fundraising and fundraising propels nonprofits.  So to say doing good will attract funding alone, is rather naieve.

Also, we must consider just how many nonprofits do similar work.  How many charities exist to combat cancer?  How many to solve homelessness?  On and on.  There are very few unique charities, and those that are unique are very niche and have small followings.  So nonprofits operate in competitive environments and need strategic marketing and PR – public relations — so they can raise the funds they need to do the job they need to do.

Marketing isn’t everything.  Much goes into running a successful nonprofit, but while it is often easy to try to do without, if often becomes evident that it is the most critical function that enables an organization to thrive.