Marketing Minute: Laying the Groundwork for your Marketing Plan

amber recker 3-12

a post series by guest blogger, Amber Recker

For many non-profit organizations, creating a marketing plan is not high on the priority list. We are often understaffed and underfunded, and sometimes, under the wrong impression that we don’t have the skills necessary to do so. However, you DO need a general marketing plan in order to create a focused vision for your marketing efforts, and it should support your overall strategic goals. It doesn’t have to be meticulously documented, but you should have it sketched out, and it should be shared across the organization. The plan will help you formulate a strategy and make decisions about what tools and channels you use to execute it.

Here are some steps to help you get started:

1-      Define who you are.

Begin by asking: who are you as an organization? What do you have to offer? What are your current challenges? What is critical to your success? To get meaningful answers to these questions, do your research. Talk to staff, volunteers, and board members and get their feedback. This will give you a clear picture of where your organization is right now and will serve as your jumping off point.

2-      Perform a high-level marketing SWOT analysis.

This process helps you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Ask yourself what strengths your organization possesses, what weaknesses exist, what opportunities exist within, and what threats exist that could negatively impact your organization. Here are some things to address: how the public perceives you and your services; how clients perceive your organization; the status of your current operational budget; the status of your fundraising activities; and the shape of your existing donor base.

3-      Define your goals.

What would you like to achieve with your marketing efforts? Increased brand awareness? Event or program promotion? Connect with new potential donors, volunteers, or clients? Why do you want this outcome? Be specific and write it down. This will provide direction as you build your marketing strategy.

4-      Define your target audience(s).

Who are you trying to reach? You may have multiple audiences, such as potential clients, donors, young women, the medical community, etc. Be sure to clearly define each because they may require different strategies. Where do they live? How do they act? What are they looking for? What’s the emotional context? What motivates them? These questions will help you identify strategies to reach different audiences.

By following these initial 4 steps, you’ll gain a better understanding of your organization and its marketing goals. Next month, we will explore outlining your marketing objectives and developing strategies.

As always, if you have questions or ideas for this blog, please email me at I’d love to connect with you on social media too.

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