Positioning Your Campaign for Success

Recently, we hear more and more funders hoping that local nonprofit organizations will collaborate with each other more often and more substantially. In some situations collaboration between two independent groups makes sense for the good of the community, but not always for the nonprofit organizations. Whatever one’s perspective is on the issue of collaboration, it emphasizes the fact that every nonprofit organization operates in a highly competitive marketplace.  Are you positioning your campaign for success in the philanthropic marketplace?

When an organization is considering a major capital campaign the level of competition often increases. In any given community, the small number of people who have amassed substantial
financial wherewithal and those who have demonstrated strong leadership ability are always the ones in highest demand. Everyone is knocking on the same doors.

Every organization operates in a highly competitive marketplace

That’s why it’s important to set your organization apart from others that may be pursuing the same potential donors and volunteers. In marketing parlance, that’s become known as positioning. This process forces you to address some very tough questions:

  • What makes your organization distinctive, in the eyes of the philanthropic community you need to engage? What is its unique niche in the philanthropic marketplace?
  • What is the job that only your organization can do, or that it can do better than anyone else? What is the key benefit it is best qualified to deliver?
  • Why should your prospects support this campaign instead of another, or give more to you than to another? How will this campaign enable your organization to do an even better job to expand its services, improve quality, or serve a new constituency?

A university, for example, might be known for its service to first-generation students, or an independent school for its work with disadvantaged youth. A hospital may be noted not only for providing essential medical care, but also for supporting other organizations which provide community health services.

Giving the campaign an identity
Once you’ve determined how best to position your organization and/or campaign, the next challenge is to express this idea in a simple, dramatic, and memorable fashion.

The Campaign theme should reinforce the benefits provided by your organization

Your campaign theme can and should reflect your positioning statement, and address the interests of prospective donors and volunteers. A good theme is positive, exciting, inspirational, action-oriented, and original (non-generic).

The theme will give your campaign a recognizable identity. It should reinforce the emotional appeal of the case, and suggest a graphic treatment for your campaign communications. Following a
successful campaign, an effective theme is sometimes adopted by the organization on a permanent basis.

Many perceive that the task of marketing begins by creating a campaign theme. But a theme needs to be more than clever and catchy. It should reinforce in the minds of your constituents the benefits provided by your organization – benefits that justify a significant investment of time and money. To be effective, these creative choices need to be guided by the conscious discipline of competitive marketplace positioning.

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