Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why Is Marketing Important In Grant Writing?

Marketing isn't just important to your non profit's grant writing; it gets your name in front of everyone; potential donors (grant donors, major donors, corporate donors, etc.), potential clients, other non profits working for the same cause, the general public, etc. Marketing your organization; its name, its work, its track record and successes, connects your organization to people in your community.

Making your non profit's name and work known to the community may sound like something that 'would be nice for your organization, but isn't high on the office's 'to do' list', yet.

Consider marketing strongly before putting it off.

You work for Big City's Rollerskate Museum and with all of the recent growth in town, your colleagues conducted a study and found a predicted increase in interest (an increase in visits to the museum and increased membership and donations) over the next ten years. This led your board and key staff to plan for the growth and plan for the increased fundraising need. You and your org's staff and volunteers are going to work to raise $3 million during a capital campaign that starts in three years. A marketing plan is going to increase the money raised for your capital campaign because it will help educate potential donors about who your organization is and what you do; and marketing will reach more people in a given space of time than you could. If a two minute radio ad reaches 10,000 listeners, locally, with basic information about your group, and how to donate; how could you possibly reach the same people, personally, in two minutes; and more importantly, raise the number of donations that the radio ad will generate?

Your organization is like every other organization; increased needs are on the horizon for each of us. Every non profit faces an increased need for money. If your organization isn't planning an increase in staff, programs, or other organizational business in the future (which is rare); then the cost of living (i.e. gas, rent, utilities, salary etc.) will go up sooner than later. All organizations are always facing how to both maintain current operations, financially, and also raise the additional increased financial resources necessary for growth (even if it's just the organization's cost of living that increases).

To raise donations you must compete with every other non profit that also needs money. How will you do this successfully? By getting the word out there that your organization meets its specific need that it addresses in the local community; and that no other organizaiton has achieved the benchmarks that your non profit has with the level of success that it has. Your mission and track record will set your organization apart because it's where your group becomes unique.

In order to put your organization's name in front of the largest number of potential donors, and to educate people about what your organization does and how successfully it meets local needs; you must develop marketing tools. These assist in every aspect of your organization's operations; not just grant writing or fundraising. Your agency's mission statement and its goal benefit, too.

Each of the following are marketing tools; a strong website; a regular Blog; Internet bulleting board to generate dialogue; E-mail updates to clients or colleagues; agency newsletter; regular press releases; tv or radio commercials; billboards, attending conferences to speak or with an information, service, or recruiting booth; conducting classes; having staff or volunteers publish in your field; recruiting board members with strong financial and community (business or social) ties; developing stickers, t-shirts, buttons, pencils/pens, etc. for hand outs; telephone banks; your staff and volunteers telling their friends, colleagues, and family about your organization and its work; developing leave-behinds (i.e. an information sheet, an information packet, etc. about your organization); attend local professional affiliation organizations in your non profit's field and talk to the group about your org, etc.

Which marketing tools is right for your organization will require planning future needs and goals and then weighing the cost/benefit ratio for each marketing tool, considering which marketing items will help the most, what information should go into the marketing piece, and which tools are the most effective for your potential donors and region. Often, this requires that your organization hire a professional marketing consultant, at least in the planning phase, who will work with your board and staff. The consultant will direct your planning and help you decide what is necessary and which marketing tools will provide your organization with the most 'bang for the buck'. Ask colleagues at other non profits who have recently ran a successful marketing cmapaign, or ask local affiliates of reputable national or local marketing organizations if they have a list of consulting marketing professionals in your area.

The money spent on marketing will come back to your organization in increased benefit. How? The more that a foundation's program manager, say, hears your organization's name or reads about your mission statement - the more familiar your organization and its work is to him or her. This helps if, say, you've applied to a larger local foundation two times in the past and have not yet received a grant - it may be because they aren't sure who your organization is or how successful it is at its work. Their own knowledge, as local members of the community, is often very important in a foundation's decision to give a grant or not. This can especially happen to non profits who may have existed (even successfully) for years, but is only now starting a grant writing program in its fundraising work. This is equally true of donors of all kinds. The only way that a donor can decide to give to your organization is if that donor knows about your organization and its work.

Marketing is important to each aspect of your non profit's work and so, everyone involved in your organization's work is important to marketing. This doesn't mean that each volunteer or staff member has to be a terriffic public speaker. What it does mean, though, is that even say, a social worker, working for your organization can provide a plug for your organization at a program that they run. Or, a board member volunteering for your environmental books publishing organization can tell a colleague, or three, about your non profit and its recent successes, at their next corporate retreat. Everyone involved in your work can contribute.

Simply put, specifically to grant writing, marketing is an investment into increased fundraising success and attributing your agency's great work to your non profit's name to increase local awareness on the greatest scale possible. What non profit couldn't use this kind of help?!

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