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5 challenges: strengthening your voice for positive change.

It is imperative--and a challenge--to unite and mobilize the nonprofit sector in ways that strengthen its voice for positive change. Today, that can mean utilizing the newest tools on the Internet, broadening your organization's reach, and modeling after the best practices of for profits. Speaking at the 2006 American Marketing Association Nonprofit Marketing conference in

Washington, D.C., Patrick Dominguez, senior marketing manager for TechSoup Stock, underscored the importance of nonprofits implementing marketing strategies.

Dominguez listed the following five challenges and insights for effective marketing:

1. The brand. Sending out mass emails about products or services can backfire for a nonprofit, said Dominguez, especially those that "express the belief that they don't have the capacity to develop their brands." Rhetorically, Dominguez asked the audience, "How many of you get SPAM saying the same things?" So as not to confuse potential donors, it's imperative that your organization focuses on building its brand, "so that it's recognizable." This way, when prospects receive an email featuring your organizations' logo, they won't toss it, he said.

One approach for smaller nonprofits seeking brand-building, said Dominguez, is to recruit a pro bono marketing or advertising professional with the expertise to help boost your branding efforts. Dominguez advised focusing on two areas: (1) a strong visual identity (if there were 10 pieces of marketing collateral on a table, would your constituents be able to immediately pick out yours?), and (2) clear brand positioning (is it clear to your organization's audiences what your brand stands for and how it differs from other organizations in your field?).

2. Putting marketing collateral into perspective. Marketing collateral is defined in terms of sales as the collection of media used to support the sale of a product or service (e.g. Web content, brochures, posters). Often times, said Dominguez, much of the marketing collateral amounts to a boring description of an organization's history, mission, and programs (yawn). Dominguez offered the following ways to make your collateral more relevant:

* Create a marketing piece for each of your target audiences (e.g. donors, volunteers, clients) and paint a picture of the compelling benefits or you organization's work for each audience. If a reader can't answer the "What's in it for me?" question in less than a minute or two, the collateral isn't working.

* Have a prominent call-to-action. Make it clear what the reader is supposed to do next (e.g. sign up online to volunteer).

* Have you ever ended up with a large box of collateral in your storage room instead of in your constituents' hands? Make sure to have a plan for distributing your marketing collateral and choose the most efficient channel, which can include email, referrals, word-of-mouth, and/or postal mail.

3. Managing proliferation of channels. Dominguez said TechSoup addresses this issue by being cognizant of the impact of each channel for getting out your organization's message, including advertising, direct mail, word-of-mouth, blogs, podcasts, etc., involving both online and offline media. "If you think of your communications channels as an investment portfolio, the key here is to allocate your resources to the channels yielding the greatest ROI for your organization," said Dominguez. "Of course, the ROI may include both financial and social/environmental returns." Measuring the return generated by a channel is often times challenging, he added, but even rough estimates are useful for understanding which channels are generating the best results.

4. Advocating for disciplined marketing approaches. "Many marketing (or communications) staff are bombarded with requests from colleagues eager for marketing support, often ASAR" said Dominguez, who said that sometimes the most valuable service a marketing person can provide is to bring a disciplined marketing approach to a colleague's request. For example, ask questions such as: What results do you hope to achieve? Who is your audience? What is the best way to reach them? What's your call-to-action? What is your budget and timeframe?

Or, try filling out a creative brief together. Added Dominguez, "Often by stepping back and thinking through such fundamental marketing questions, a more effective marketing solution to the request emerges."

5. Sustainability. Financial sustainability is perhaps the number one objective for a nonprofit organization. Dominguez advised considering whether your marketing program supports your organization's financial sustainability. To ensure that it does, "link your marketing goals to you organization's strategic goals."

For example, is your organization trying to increase the number of donors? Or launch a new earned-income generating program? Marketing communications is needed to support such key goals, said Dominguez, who said that when your marketing program clearly contributes to your organization's goals and to its financial sustainability, you will be more likely to get more resources for your marketing program from your organization as well as from donors, partners and volunteers.

"In our organization, we think about marketing and development as being one thing," said Dominguez, who said both are efforts to raise funds.

TechSoup Stock, the donation service of TechSoup, has helped corporations distribute more than 1.7 million donated and discounted technology products to more than 50,000 nonprofits.
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Title Annotation:MARKETING
Author:Nobles, Marla E.
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:Mar 15, 2007
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