Sunday, May 11, 2008

Not Completely Random Thoughts

My intention of posting at least once a week has been defeated by an overload of just about everything - work, family crises, and a backup of information. But, that doesn't mean that I haven't been churning out thoughts. I just haven't found time to funnel them from my head to the computer. So, in these few stolen moments, when I should be loading the car for the trip to the innards of New Jersey to celebrate the woman who brought me into the world, I'll start the download.

Random Thought #1: Not-For-Profit Doesn't Mean Not For Business
Over the past year I've taken on several non-profits as clients. This wasn't by design, it just happened imperceptibly until one day I discovered my one NPO client had become three, and then four. They're all wonderful organizations doing great things for the arts, for education, and generally making the world a better place. But (of course there's a "but"), I've found that in certain respects, they're run more like non-profit hobbies than businesses. Let's be honest, a non-profit is a business. It has output - a product or service - and it needs to generate income in order to operate and deliver its product or service. Sounds like a duck to me. Success may not be measured by shareholder value, but NPOs still need to engage in proven business practices in order to be successful. To think otherwise is foolish. In fact, to help change the perception that "business" isn't part of not for profit operations, I propose a name change: Non-Profit Business.

When you start looking at non-profits as businesses, there are certain business marketing realities that become clear:

- Non-Profits are Brands. That's right, just like Coke, Microsoft, and Toyota. Non-profit businesses (NPB), like all businesses have an identity that fosters perception, emotional connection, and loyalty. This identity must be honed, based on organization objectives and mission, and it must be continually tended to ensure that all communications, events, and interactions are consistent with the brand.

- All Communications are Marketing Communication. Based on the number of horrifyingly bad annual donation solicitations I've gotten, my assumption is that this idea isn't wide spread. Just because non profits are mostly in the business of doing good things doesn't mean there isn't competition. Every other NPB is competing for donor dollars which, in today's economy, are becoming less and less. Non-profits need to be developing visual identities and marketing campaigns that cut through the clutter and will be seen and heard in a creative way with a meaningful and compelling message.

- An Annual Marketing Plan is Your Tool to Achieving Annual Business Objectives. Assuming an NPB has clearly defined yearly business goals (i.e., fund raising, raising brand profile & creating awareness, events, donor acquisition, etc.), an organized marketing plan with a focused strategy, defined tactics, and success measurement tools is the most effective and efficient way to realize goals.

- Multichannel and Online Marketing Isn't Optional, It's Critical. Ask any foot dragging, geek-bashing, technology-phobic business how their strategy of resisting change is working out for them. These days most people use multiple communication channels and have schedules that are more time crunched, resulting in attention spans that are much shorter. Getting noticed, communicating your message, and persuading people to take action requires an interactive online strategy as well as off line communications and events. Using social media to communicate as well as to foster a virtual community of interested and connected supporters is one of the most powerful initiatives non-profits can undertake. Check out Beth Kanter's very illuminating posts on this.

Next up in the Random Thoughts hit parade: "Mini-Socials - Social Networking Writ Small".

Beth Kanter, brands, business, marketing, marketing communications, marketing plan, non-profit, not for profit, NPO, online marketing, social media, social networking

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