“Marketing gets no respect in the nonprofit world”


So says David Williamson, writing for the Centre for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, Georgetown University.
David’s paper is excellent and while the cause-based sector is slightly different in Australia, from a funding perspective due to the relatively high level of Government funding, the need for an effective marketing strategy is essential and you could do a lot worse than consider what he has to say.
David opens with thoughts on why marketing gets no respect and why the opposite should apply.

Several factors account for the suspicion or disdain with which many non-profit managers view the marketing function. Mostly, it’s a matter of ignorance. Usually trained in other disciplines, non-profit leaders often fail to understand what marketing can and can’t do for their organisations. Consequently, they hold some strange assumptions (e.g. Our good work will sell itself) …….Compounding the challenge, few non-profit managers recognise their lack of expertise in these areas. The same people who would never contradict a financial expert or ignore a scientist don’t think twice about overruling marketing professionals on audiences, messages, tactics – the very essence of marketing strategy.

From my experience he has a pretty fair case here but the real issue facing us in the cause-based sector is that we are so consumed with today – the homeless family sitting in the car park seeking assistance, the aged care resident waiting for lunch, the community transport passengers who are stranded because the bus has broken down – it is hard to make the mental effort let alone find the cash to invest in tomorrow.
I have always found marketing people to be true optimists and David is no exception. Despite the current state of play, he has no doubt that cause-based leaders will recognise what their counterparts in other sectors understood years ago, that marketing is essential.

Marketing answers the questions: How is our program distinctive? What do we want to be known for? Why is our work relevant? With the completion for philanthropic resources and public attention fierce, these are absolutely critical questions for every non-profit.

I would add that while the benefits of investing in marketing may not be obvious today, the costs of failing to do so could be felt tomorrow. With cause-based organisations coming under greater and greater media, public and government attention you can no longer afford to relegate marketing and communications to an overstretched caseworker who is interested in social media. It could be a matter of survival.

Author: Chris Gandy, Director, Cause and Effective. Marketing and Communications is one of Cause and Effective’s core service areas.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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