The Importance of Marketing

Most nonprofits feel marketing is essential to their survival. Marketing is a broad topic. Which aspect is important to your nonprofit right now?

In broad terms, marketing can be divided into four sections:

Place – Where your nonprofit provides its services or sells its products

Price – How and how much your nonprofit charges for its services or products

Product – The features and benefits your services or products provide

Promotion – How your nonprofit advertises, packages, and sells its services and products

Promotion often receives the bulk of the attention when marketing is discussed. In addition, many nonprofits dislike the idea of selling their services. As a result, the conversation narrows to only a discussion of advertising and branding. The discussion of branding often narrows to what the advertising message should be.

Branding is the distinguishing mark of a product or services. Many times this is seen as the logo and colors that make an organization standout. However, it is much better to think of branding in broader terms. Branding is the effect that the combination of Place, Price, Product, and Promotion has on the clients and community.

What is the distinguishing mark your products or services leave on your community? IBM is using the phrase, “Let’s build a smarter planet.” They have thought through what that means. They put their focus on the Product before they began the advertising. In fact, they waited until their products, internal processes, and services were delivering on the promise before they made the promise. The brand came alive before they told anyone there was a brand (advertised the brand).

What is the distinguishing mark your nonprofit’s products and services are making on your community? What is the mark you want them to make? Is your community enthusiastic about the mark you are or aspire to make? How do your donors feel about the mark you are making (Do your supporters want the Product you are selling? Are they willing to pay the Price for what you are offering?)? Is the mark being made in the right Place (Does the ethnic group on the east side of town need it more than the west side neighborhood you have traditionally served?)?

Are the Product, Place, and Price working in harmony to keep the promises made by your Promotion? An objective review of your community and donor support will provide you with the answer to that question.

Next Step:

Decide what you want to have as the distinguishing mark your nonprofit will make on your community (brand)

Determine what changes must be made to Price, Place, and Product to make that mark

Determine what evidence you have, or need, to prove in a compelling way that your nonprofit is making its mark on the community

Discuss your evidence with the community and your donors to ensure they agree your evidence is compelling and your mark is unique (distinguishing) and significant

Decide how to tell your story to the rest of the community (Promotion)

While Promotion is the last thing on the list of things to do, it is equal in importance with the other actives. Its job is to reinforce the success of Price, Place, and Product. Promotion tells the community about the mission, the promises of the mission (distinguishing mark on the community), and the evidence and benefits of the mission’s success.

Organizations with high levels of sustainability have balanced marketing programs and never let the advertising component of Promotion dominate the marketing discussion.


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