April 17, 2014


Re-tooling your marketing pitch for the recession

Mary Williams-Stover

Mary Williams-Stover

How do you reshape your marketing strategy when you've just lost your marketing department?

As nonprofit organizations struggle to deliver effective services amid drastic funding cuts how do they re-frame their value to donors and prospective partners?

Before you launch the next fundraising campaign, think about re-tooling your ROI (return on investment) statements and practices. In today's marketplace, every conversation begins or ends with the state of the economy. 

How does your organization make the connection?

Start with your leadership team. Who has their ear to the ground? What are opinion leaders and community or grass-roots leaders doing to meet the current trend and focus on economy?

Ask your employees to share what they are hearing from other organizations, including your competitors and partners. Start working on your return-on-investment strategy and messages to align with the current trend.

Everyone from the grant writer to the executive director needs to be included in this process and discussion.

Make your ROI easy to digest. One nonprofit community-outreach specialist says the message must fall off the bone. Which means it is so simple to use, that any staff person can remember it and use it when talking with various publics.

Do your homework and research. Most universities publish reports on the economy that are free or available online. Once you have updated your economic trend data start, fine-tuning them into 2-3 key facts.

Be sure to document any research you're quoting right on the fact sheet or website. Listing your sources demonstrates your credibility. Keep it simple. For example: "early-childhood education is a smart investment; every dollar spent on early-childhood education delivers an X percent return."

Reframe the conversation. A year ago your organization had a value-add statement that worked just fine. Today's discussion about your organization needs to include an economic viewpoint to be relevant.

Here's an excellent example of one non-profit agency's shift in theme to ensure relevancy:

2008 theme: Early childhood education helps reduce remedial education.

2009 theme: Let's protect our investment. Early childhood education is one of North Carolina's best earning stocks.

Align with brand and opinion leaders. As you re-position your marketing strategy to reinforce the ROI and value you offer, consider engaging established leaders to reach your target audiences.

Sometimes the best way to reach an audience is through advocates and partnerships that enhance your brand. 

Think outside the box about who you can recruit to tell your story. One successful organization using this strategy moved beyond the traditional CEOs to connect with area doctors, school superintendents, civic club officers, chamber of commerce committee chairpersons and economic development councils.

The key is to think outside the box and broaden your view of which leaders should know about your new added value and return-on-investment. Spend time educating these leaders and turn them into partners who love to talk about your services and programs. 

Results won't happen over night, but with time and a new re-tooled focus, your marketing strategy will reap rewards. In today's economy most leaders are open to new partnerships and connections that clearly deliver a good investment.

Mary Williams-Stover is a nonprofit marketing consultant based in Cary, N.C., and a Shoestring Creative Group Network Affiliate. Mary can be reached at affiliates@shoestringgroup.com or 1-888-835-6236. She serves all of North Carolina.


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