Three years ago, my husband and I created a Missouri Not-for-Profit Organization. It was a minor league football team and getting it off the ground was a bit more difficult than we expected. There were plenty of young men who had the talent, but sometimes finding the resources and money to operate the team was difficult. We learned from another team owner that becoming a Not-for-Profit organization was one way to increase our chances of donations and sponsorships because the businesses could write off their generosity on their income taxes.
There were two other minor league teams in the area, so it was important for us to find unique marketing strategies to promote our team. We met with several advertising agencies, college interns, and volunteers. Through those meetings, we generated a list of five unique marketing strategies for our non-profit that were targeted to our location, our niche, and our sponsors. Here are those five marketing strategies that can be tailored to virtually any non-profit organization.
Talk to Everyone
I can’t express how important this is in today’s world. Building contacts within your community is vital to your success. Schedule meetings and presentations with civic organizations, other non-profits, and the city government. If you’re not a fantastic public speaker, then find someone who is. You need someone that has no problem talking to crowds or to individuals. You want to generate excitement about your organization and what its goals are.
Internet vs. Real Life: The Internet Will Give You a Wider Reach
We took out a small advertisement in our local newspaper, put up signs and posters, and posted ads on free websites such Craigslist in order to generate interest. Create a website and promote it everywhere on the internet (social media). Keep the website updated and make it look professional. There is nothing worse than a potential donor visiting your website for the first time and feeling as though it was designed by an elementary student. This will soon become a focal point of your organization and it is important that it represents you well.
Don’t Always Look for Cash
Money is what every non-profit organization needs to operate – or is it? For us, we found that trading services was what helped us operate in the black. We would trade advertising in our programs and our website for printing services. We found soft drink distributors that would trade products for halftime announcements. Make appearances at other events by non-profits and ask for the same in return. Cash is good, but it’s not the only way.
Ask for Contacts: Networking is Everything
If you don’t have any contacts to begin with, then ask people in your organization. See whose father is a member of the local American Legion. Ask if anyone has a contact at the newspaper. You’ll be surprised at who can help you. The only way it won’t work is if you never ask for help.
Don’t Be Afraid of Fun!
When you are brainstorming for marketing ideas, don’t be afraid to have fun. Sometimes, the most bizarre fundraisers or events are the most successful. We had several of our players show up at a remote controlled car event. They had to participate in several of the races and let’s just say they were better football players than RC car operators. It was a great time, even though the players always finished last!
The key to success is to never give up on what you believe in. Specific marketing strategies will be different for every organization. It’s how you connect with the community around you that will make your organization successful! Best of luck!