Six reasons why nonprofit marketing messages don’t connect.

A 2017 article by Ironpaper provided stats related to the challenge of nonprofit communications, with specific attention to the digital age we’re in. One of the most insightful stats is that 53% of nonprofit marketers feel challenged to produce engaging content. Could this be related to NPO’s marketing perspective?

Inward vs. Outward.

There are foundational reasons many nonprofits fail to effectively connect in their marketing efforts. Primarily, it’s because they have an “inside-out” marketing philosophy instead of one that is “outside-in.” Being “inside-out” means that your marketing efforts tend to be organization-centered. “Outside-in” is the opposite–your messaging and marketing is target-centered.

Here are six clues that will help you recognize if your organization has a less-than-effective, inside-out marketing philosophy.

1. You see your organization’s key messages as inherently desirable.

After all, who wouldn’t want to help your organization and its cause? And you’re probably right. But that assumes your target has no other choice when it comes to where they should/could spend their time, money and effort. Plus, it presumes they’re not leading incredibly busy and media-saturated lives.

2. Lack of marketing success is blamed on audience ignorance and/or lack of motivation.

“If they only understood our needs.” Or “People today are too busy (with unimportant distractions) to get involved.” Those are commonly held and often expressed beliefs of many nonprofit marketing executives. Truth be told, they’re right. But is it the responsibility of your audience to drive change, or is it the duty of your nonprofit organization’s marketing team?

3. Little to no effort is put into target audience research.

Audience ignorance, understanding and motivation, as expressed above, are issues that truly do need to be addressed. The simple question is: How do you devise strategies and methods to overcome these issues without talking to your target audiences (especially those you want to reach, but who have not responded)? You may be surprised that even a little bit of insight or informal research can go a long way to correct big problems in your messaging and marketing.

4. Marketing is used only to promote your organization and its needs.

One-way conversations are no fun at all. Good nonprofit marketers instinctively know that the key to marketing effectiveness is building relationships with their target audiences. Given that, instead of an “enough-about-me, what-do-you-think-about-me” marketing approach, why not start a two-way conversation with your key constituencies? In other words, invite dialog, interaction and engagement.

5. You have a “silver bullet” marketing strategy, using the same tactic—again and again.

Direct mail. Direct mail. Direct mail. Same audience. Same audience. Same audience. Hmmm … and many nonprofits wonder why their marketing ROI and retention is so dismal. Maybe it’s because their strategic marketing plan is, too?

6. “Competition” is ignored.

Every message, whether it’s nonprofit or corporate, competes with your messages. Let me repeat … EVERY message competes with YOUR message. It’s a busy world; you should get busy and consider who ALL your competitors really are and look to make your messages more compelling than theirs.

What about your organization? Does your organization have an inside-out or outside-in marketing philosophy? Are you connecting with your marketing messages? Do these six considerations help you to formulate a different approach? Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Bill McKendry