As with everything, the NFP sector is more complex than it appears from the outside, so if you’re a marketer, here’s what you need to know:
1. It’s not one market
The Not for Profit sector is a diverse group. At last count, it included about more than 600,000 organisations — everyone from charities to childcare centres, philanthropists to public hospitals.
Would you develop a marketing or sales strategy for “the corporate sector”? No, you wouldn’t, and it’s the same here.
Each player has their own constellation of goals, needs, customers, and perspectives, so bespoke approaches are required. An important thing to keep in mind is that most NFPs are working in complex regulatory or legislative spaces. A childcare centre, for example, needs to be delivering on government policy and marrying that to community expectation, all while delivering the core business. If you want to add value, you need to be across that too.
2. Don’t talk down
There is a well-trodden path of marketers coming in from the private sector to ‘help out’ a charity or cause. While it’s great in that it provides not-for-profits with some high-octane ideas, and the creatives with an opportunity to do some good, it only works if it’s a true partnership.
Don’t assume the sector is somehow less savvy or discerning. It’s a mistake many make after a quick survey of anemic comms channels or daggy flyers. But it sells NFPs short. Those comms channels aren’t being served because people are busy on grant applications, and that flyer was made by a volunteer giving 25 hours a week. If you can’t see these products as a product of true passion, you may be in the wrong room.
3. Keep cost in mind
One stereotype that broadly does hold — NFPs don’t have money to throw around.
So, this point is an easy one — when proposing tactics, cost and return on investment must be front of mind, and know that any investment will be carefully considered. Even if you think a glossy TV Ad is the way to go, it’s unlikely to get off the ground.
The good news is that NFPs are usually tripping over stories of impact, success and emotional engagement, so all the raw materials are there to craft great narratives.
4. Trust takes time
To build a real relationship, you’ve got to be in it for the long term. Swinging by every once in a while with a big idea will get results, but trust and behaviour change are built over years, and only when you’re trusted will you get the opportunity to take the big swings and make some real impact. Don’t get frustrated if you’re expected to earn your stripes.
5. Add value
This one definitely shouldn’t come as a surprise, but make sure you’re able to offer something of genuine value. The best communications come when a practitioner is perfectly aligned with a subject matter expert, so seek out NFPs that are aligned to your values and producing social good you’re passionate about projecting. That way, together you can do great things.