Marketing to Attract Donor Investment

Too many nonprofit organizations operate on the assumption that the greater their need — and the more they talk about it or “sell it” — the stronger their fundraising appeal will be and the more money they will raise.

We must realize that simply being “for the social good” is no longer good enough.

Today, what is more likely to attract robust donor support is an opportunity for the donor to invest in something— to invest in the promise of some kind of future return. Rest assured that people do not give away their hard earned money. The philanthropic gift is an exchange of values just as clearly as when a merchant sells a product. Identifying the value that your organization exchanges with its donors is an integral part of understanding the marketplace perspective of your institution.

Does your institution offer its donors a clear investment opportunity? It does if donors can see your organization mirroring their own deepest desires and aspirations; for example, a furthering of the cause or causes that matter to them.

We suggest the challenge of raising funds is best met by marketing, not selling. The selling mentality is based within the organization; it involves offering what you have on your shelves for purchase. Marketing involves placing on your shelves what people already want.

The process of marketing for the nonprofit sector can be broken into at least seven major steps:

  1. Becoming knowledgeable of constituency needs. You can identify your organization’s selling points — strengths for garnering support — by asking the right questions of community leaders, and really listening.
  2. Defining constituencies by segment. Grouping donors in terms of interests, desires, and preferences.
  3. Targeting those segments with the highest potential to make your fund raising successful.
  4. Positioning (branding) the institution effectively. What are your institution’s relative (i.e., special or particular) strengths?
  5. Combining insights gained through the first four steps into a strategic plan of action, then design, write, and commit to such a plan.
  6. Communicating the special opportunities that a campaign presents in terms that appeal to the targeted groups.
  7. Using marketing tools and techniques to persuade donors.

Every organization faces some challenges implementing these types of changes. For some, an inward facing organizational perspective can hinder one’s ability to readily identify the external marketplace. Fundraising counsel is often engaged to provide the objectivity and expertise to hone your messages.

Fundraising counsel has the benefit of:

  • constant contact with a wide range of business and civic leaders
  • a current dialogue with the donor community
  • field experience — knowledge gained by evaluating numerous cases for support
  • well-researched familiarity with public opinion.

As competition for a limited number of philanthropic dollars grows more intense, the success of your development program will depend on your
ability to apply marketing dynamics and technology to your own situation. The successful nonprofit organization will be the one marketed first in terms of the opportunities it offers to the donor constituency — and second, in terms of the institution’s needs.


click here for pdf version: FRM67

For more on The Marketplace Perspective, A New Approach to the Development of Institutions access Goettler Series Volume 3