A Different Look at Nonprofit Marketing



Nonprofits have an abundance of resources at hand to guide them to better marketing and development practices. National organizations such as The Chronicle of Philanthropy, excellent college and university programs as well as many experienced development consultants can be guides. But consider what it looks like at ground level. What might the direct marketer or printer know? Basically, a lot. It’s a little like talking with a hairdresser or barber. After more than twenty years of observation, InfoVine has developed and printed literally millions of pages of nonprofit campaigns so we have seen more than a few things. Here are some observations.


Get potential donors to know the organization – Introduce yourself. Telling a compelling story about why the organization was founded and its purpose is key before asking for a donation.


Market before selling - and don’t stop. A letter at the end of the year is not really marketing.

Stay in touch with the people who have donated. Show them what was done with their gift and thank them again.


Quality – If it’s not high quality, why send it? “Put your best foot forward” is still true today and critical for all types of fundraising material. If the mission is important, show it.


Coordination and a consistent message take planning. Successful fundraising campaigns require goals, plans and follow-up to meet those goals.

Where to start? Over 50% of our current clients are nonprofit organizations so we know the needs of both for-profit and nonprofit entities. But is there a difference between marketing for nonprofits and marketing for service or retail companies? There are several, but the obvious one is that a retail or service company is providing a direct benefit to its paying customers - yummier pizza or cleaner hair - where a nonprofit provides an arm’s length benefit to someone else. Potential donors don’t always know what they get for a nonprofit donation which is why clear messaging and targeting the right audience is so vitally important.


Many nonprofits use direct mail marketing as a regular form of advertising. It first became widely used when the Postal Service started using ZIP codes so an organization could target neighborhoods for their appeals and then easier, after computers became commonplace, so supporter and donor lists were easier to compile and maintain.

Why stand out – But just having a mailing list and a computer is not the ticket to fundraising success. The nonprofit sector in the United States quadrupled in the 1980s and doubled again in the 1990s and early 2000s. Consequently, the use of direct mail exploded. Today, direct mail fundraising accounts for at least 20% of the nearly $450 billion contributed to the nation's nonprofit organizations. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S.


Digital media has also been used among more nonprofits. Websites, email, and social media can be used with direct mail fundraising. However, these electronic platforms have not grown fast enough to replace direct mail and they also require careful attention and feeding. When was the last time a new blog post went out or the website landing page was refreshed?

Bottom line – There are thousands of nonprofits out there all trying to raise money for causes that don’t provide a direct benefit to the donor. Don’t forget the mission but don’t forget the donor either. Make the case for donating crystal clear.

How we can help – Nonprofits are dedicated and passionate about their missions. But in order to raise money, the organization needs to put its best foot forward, not just once but again and again so juggling the time spent between helping clients and promoting the organization can be tricky. Some of the benefits of being a tax-exempt organization are the special mail rates that nonprofits get. We are experts in helping understand these ins and outs so mail can be used to its greatest advantage and multiple times a year. While a good marketing mix is recommended for maximum effectiveness, direct mail marketing alone is also highly effective. Here are some possibilities.


Variable Printing- Variable data printing, or personalized printing, is a direct mail option for organizations that want to reach donors through the use of printed materials and also want their message to be personalized to a specific household. Think summer science camps for the Smith family.


Variable Mapping- Variable maps are personalized maps that can be created as graphic images for printing or to use in emails or web pages. They are web-to-print and can provide customized routes for a direct mail customer to get to the organization’s location.


Every Door Direct Mail® (EDDM) - Every Door Direct Mail® (EDDM®) services are an easy way to promote a nonprofit in its local community or whatever area it wants to target. EDDM® uses USPS mail routes of the customer’s choice to saturate neighborhoods without having to pay for list data. It’s less expensive than other types of direct mail.


Mail Processing - Utilizing our in-house mailing services will help save on postage costs with USPS because a mail house can often pre-sort large mail runs for the postal system which provides significant mail savings.


Targeted Data Lists - Build targeted mail lists by industry, job title, company size, and much more.


Refer-a-Friend - Get patrons and donors to keep coming back for more — and bring their friends in the process.

InfoVine has the expanded capabilities to get things faster because it’s all in-house. We provide end-to-end communication for galas and fundraisers - Save the Date, targeted letters to major donors for pre-event table sales, invitations, reply cards, menu printing and programs - all with the same art, look and feel.


To get back to the basics, remember:


Get them to know the organization – Communicate multiple times a year through newsletters, annual reports, a quick email blast, or updates on someone who’s been helped, anything to set the stage BEFORE asking for money. Telling a compelling story about why the organization was founded, its purpose and who it helps is key to building a bond with the public and potential donors.


Market before selling - and don’t stop. This follows from the point above. Nonprofits need to tell their story more than once. A letter at the end of the year is something but it’s not real marketing. Marketing builds relationships. Successful marketing builds the relationships that are key to successfully executing the organization’s mission.


Stay in touch with the people who have donated. Show donors who and how their gift helped and thank them profusely by name. InfoVine’s variable printing capabilities make this easy to do.


Quality – if it’s not high quality, why send it? The field of charities is crowded, and successful organizations stand out. Low quality materials are easily forgotten and e-mail that goes to spam may never be seen. If the mission is important, make sure the marketing materials look important.


Coordination and a consistent message take planning. Take the time to decide what the organization needs for the next year (or two!) and then plan for it and follow up. Does it need better name recognition? How about a bigger mailing list or more donors? Bigger donors? How many special events are going to be put on that need to be promoted? Planning ahead puts the organization in a much better position to optimize its promotion and marketing budget. At InfoVine, we can help with this since marketing, data, and printing are all under one roof.


Take your fundraising initiatives and donor communications to the next level by partnering with us on your next event or campaign. Contact us today to get started!

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