Not-for-Profit Marketing: Six Things I Wish I Had Known Twenty Years Ago

board development and revitalization ensuring sustainable resources mission. vision. values oversight and accountability: financial and legal Nov 16, 2021
Not-for-Profit Marketing; Six Things I Wish I Had Known Twenty Years Ago



They say hindsight is 20/20...


Katya Andresen was once the chief operating officer and chief strategy officer Network for Good. She is the author of Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes (Wiley, 2006). She used to write a wonderful blog on nonprofit marketing, fundraising, social media and “doing good in the world better and faster”. Katya posted six common nonprofit marketing mistakes, or what she wished she knew twenty years ago. They resonate with me about not only marketing but also advocacy.

I think you will agree.


1. What I wish I had known about fundraising: 

We’re in the happiness business.

Giving makes people feel joy – and brain science proves it.  The act of contributing to charity activates the pleasure centers of people’s brains.  When we give people the opportunity to help our wonderful cause, we make them happy.  Remember: we’re not in the business of taking away money, we’re in the business of giving joy.  What a great job we have.



2. What I wish I had known about marketing:

It’s not about us, it’s about our audience.

This insight may be marketing 101, but it’s also gold.  Every time I find a message underperforming or a partnership flailing, it’s inevitably because the work being done does not resonate with the other party’s priorities, values and perspective.  I have to remember to channel my energy into understanding my audience above myself, and to speaking to my audience rather than to myself.



3. What I wish I’d known about communications:

Feeling first, facts later.

There are no exceptions to the rule that we must awaken the heart to arouse the mind. We have to move someone emotionally before they will take in information—or act. We can’t spout information until we touch the heart.  Speak to the soul so the facts have a fighting chance.



4. What I wish I had also known about communications:

Nothing beats a good story about one person. 

Including a good story about two, twenty or twenty thousand people.  Research is clear: if we want to spark someone’s empathy and inspire a donation, we must tell the story of our cause through one person (or animal).  We must give our mission a pulse and save the abstractions and statistics for another day.





5. What I wish I had known about the message:

Messengers matter. 

We can have a stellar message, but if you have the wrong messenger, it won’t matter.  We’re in an era where faith in traditional spokespeople and marketers is at a historic low, and so people are turning to trusted friends, family, independent authorities and peers for their recommendations.  That means we’re best off with messengers other than ourselves.  Who can speak for us?  What champions, leaders or community members can express reach out on our behalf?  They matter more than our own words.



6. What I wish I had known about life:

Be generous when you’re hungry.

Some of the best advice I ever heard was from Seth Godin, who said: “Be generous when you’re hungry.  It’s difficult to be generous when you’re hungry.  Yet being generous keeps you from going hungry.  Hence the conflict.” I try to remember this every day. As I’ve said here before, here’s the refrain I created for myself: Generosity inspires generosity, so I’ll give when I’m hungry.  It’s not what I need, it’s what I provide. I’m in the business of giving, not extracting. I’ll focus on the resources I have, not those I lack. I’ll care about relationships, not transactions. True partnership creates prosperity.



What are your main “pain points” dealing with marketing and advocacy? What advice would be most helpful to you? And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!


Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.



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