For associations, foundations and any other type of NGO, growth first occurs by leveraging a network of close contacts, such as the team's family, volunteers and board members’ contacts. To expand this circle and reach a larger audience, without direct solicitation on the NGO's part, a marketing strategy is essential.
In addition, a strong brand image that is created and reinforced through marketing helps to retain the parties concerned by effectively communicating the organization's impact and mission.
Defining and executing a marketing strategy can be complex, especially when there are limited financial and human resources. We've broken down the essential steps to developing an effective marketing strategy for your NGO, which will make all the difference.
1- Establish your objectives
Without clear objectives, it's hard to know if your marketing efforts and investments are truly useful to your organization. This step allows you to make better informed choices and to pinpoint which opportunities should be pursued.
How do you define these objectives? Refer back to your mission and determine concrete goals – if possible, in numbers. For example, you might aim to increase your number of donors, members or participants by x%.
Worried that your numbers aren't realistic? Step 3 will help: By observing your environment and other organizations in your sector, you'll get an idea of what's possible. And, of course, use your experience and your organization's data. This step demonstrates the importance of having a good data collection and analysis system for your organization. By providing an impartial and explicit history, data allows you to plan and to find out what works and what doesn't work in your sector in a precise way. If you use memboGo to manage your organization or NGO, remember that all of the applications have integrated reporting tools to help you make the most of your data. Learn how to use the reporting tools here.
2 - Identify your target audiences and define your editorial approach for each of them
NGOs – whether they’re foundations, professional associations or community organizations – usually have to juggle many types of stakeholders, such as volunteers, members and donors. To give all of your marketing initiatives and communications the greatest impact, you must ensure that they have all been adapted. For example, don’t use the same message for a sponsor or potential volunteer.
Your first step in establishing a marketing strategy is to analyze your audiences, their relationship to your organization and the issue at stake, such as participating in an event, making a donation or becoming a member. In this document, you should answer questions like “Does stakeholder X tend to Y?” “What’s the best way to communicate with X?”, “Should jargon be used?”, or “What part of our mission speaks most to this type of stakeholder?” This type of information allows you to stay relevant to your target audiences, to be consistent and to stay in keeping with your brand image. In addition, you’ll retain the knowledge acquired within your organization, even if there’s turnover in your teams or volunteers. Volunteers can also make good use of the reference document, especially if they are responsible for updating your website, promoting your initiatives or any other tasks where they must reach out on your NGO's behalf.
To concretely segment your different target audiences, create separate contact lists, specifically in your newsletter software. If you use memboGo, we strongly recommend taking advantage of the automatic communications feature in our our Donations, Members and Events applications. This will save you time by allowing you to preconfigure your communications as well as to segment your list of donors, members or participants, in a single click. For example, you can program the sending of an email to a specific type of donor, which means you no longer have to create your contact lists manually!
3 - Analyze your sectorWhen defining your objectives and target audiences, try to identify important organizations or individuals in your sector. This will allow you to identify potential partners, “competitors” or companies who have already provided sponsorships. This is known as the “business intelligence” process. It gives you a better understanding of your opportunities and what works or doesn't work in your sector so that you can reach your objectives faster.
Here are a few suggestions for what you should try to identify:
- Look for individuals or organizations who could give you more visibility, specifically organizations whose audience might be interested in your initiatives. It’s free and simple publicity!
- Look for organizations that might be interested in teaming up for a specific initiative that you're trying to launch. This will decrease your costs in terms of time and money.
- You can also examine what similar organizations do to attain their objectives. This will give you ideas on how to attain your own.
4- Use your visual identity in all of your marketing materials
With your marketing strategy, it’s important to define your NGO's brand image. Your brand image will make your organization stand out and shine even more. This is all the more important since a strong brand image will help you convince potential volunteers, board members or even donors to support your organization. What’s a brand image? It’s the promise that you make to the general public – what they can expect from your initiatives?
Concretely, a brand image is mainly visual, but it can also be your way of communicating and formulating messages, in association with a graphic identity, such as a logo, your colors, or your font and style, for example.
It's a good idea to start by creating a graphics standards guide to ensure consistency and continuity in your brand image. This document brings together all of the specifics concerning your visual identity. We're happy to share our free guide template: contact-us here! Again, don't hesitate to share this document with your volunteers or any other person communicating on behalf of your organization.
You must then ensure that the graphic identity is respected on all of your platforms, including emails, newsletters, your website and social media. This isn't always easy to execute, especially on platforms that don't offer much flexibility. We recommend taking every opportunity to personalize your platform and to allow visitors to experience your organization. For example, you can use a banner on your organization’s Facebook page. Or, give your volunteers an official signature with your logo and contact information. These simple and inexpensive actions make all the difference.
If you use memboGo, remember that all of our applications can be personalized to fully reflect your organization. For example, you can integrate the online donations process directly into your site and thereby have control over your donor’s interaction with your brand. Another example: Simply create a template in the memboGo applications and all of your communications generated will align with your graphics standards, automatically!
5- Strategically choose your communication channels
There are so many ways to communicate that it's easy to get lost in platforms that are rather ineffective. Today's managers have the option to use social media, a website, events and traditional media such as radio and journals. In addition, they can ask their members, participants or donors to refer others. The fifth step in your marketing strategy is to determine which tools will be most effective in helping you reach your objectives, in addition to prioritizing which ones to use according to how much time you realistically have to manage them. Once you’ve chosen your tools, it is a matter of seriously leveraging them so that they yield results.
To determine which ones to use, refer back to your objectives and your analysis of your target audiences. From there, we recommend maintaining three to six channels according to your available resources. This could include: a website to feature your events or programs; a blog to explain how your work is important; a newsletter to stay in touch with your participants, members or donors; two social media accounts; and regular events to bring together your most important stakeholders.
Note that the channels are interconnected and can reinforce one another. For example, a well-written blog can make for very engaging content on your social media accounts, can attract media attention and, if it's hosted on your website, can improve your website's SEO score.
6- Evaluate and adjust regularlyThe last step in your marketing strategy is to simply evaluate it regularly. This step is important because it will help you identify what's working and what's not, in addition to identifying where to allocate your resources. This evaluation should be based on your data: How many hours more have you spent on communication activities? How many new donors/members/participants have you attracted? We'll come back to the importance of integrating a software that collects and stores data into your organization's management software. This information will help you make strategic decisions will less uncertainty.
7- Stay up-to-date
As in all sectors, the NGO and organizational sector changes rapidly. New ideas, initiatives and technologies pop up every day and can upend your NGO's operations and marketing strategy. Don’t hesitate to subscribe to media that shares news and other opportunity sources.
You can start by subscribing to the memboGo newsletter which offers tips on the best NGO management practices and tricks for simplifying your daily operations, directly in your inbox ;-) Sign up today!