[Note: Third in a series of a community discussion spurred by Dan Pallotta at the 2013 Partnership for Excellence Conference. Click here for a related article from Tina Frontado, Belen Vargas and Emilie Neuman. Click here for a related article from Jon Clark, Erik Talkin and Kim Davis.]
Why is it accepted that the for-profit sector will spend heavily on advertising and marketing but the culture of the nonprofit sector encourages more of a minimalist approach to marketing and communications? What challenges does this create for nonprofits to promote their missions to donors and clients? What are our assumptions around the value of paid vs. donated advertising?
In a minimalist culture, how are the roles of public relations, advertising and marketing assigned or shared in organizations, and how does that affect our effectiveness in these areas?
This week, three authors weigh in with a wide variety of viewpoints on this issue. Our guest authors are Allison Bailey, development director of of the Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Maria Valley; Jessica Tade, communications and marketing manager at the Santa Barbara Foundation; Sigrid Wright, assistant director of the Community Environmental Council; and Dean Zatkowsky, communications manager for The Orfalea Foundation.
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Dean Zatkowsky on Why Marketing Seems So Hard
Let’s start with full disclosure: After nearly 30 years in marketing, with about a fifth of that devoted to nonprofit fundraising, I approach this topic in a curmudgeonly way. I assure you my grumpiness is well earned. Most organizations — and, sadly, many marketing agencies — believe that marketing is an opportunity to indulge their secret desire to work in entertainment or the arts. Thus, people become obsessed with tactics, such as advertising or social media. Get over it, buddy. Marketing is about markets. It’s about communicating to specific people for a specific purpose. And if you haven’t figured out that specific purpose, the rest is just noise. Five-year-olds get it: They keep asking “why?”
Strong marketing plans are based on a strict hierarchy of goals, strategies and tactics, and many organizations stumble at setting goals, which makes the rest of the process confusing and difficult to evaluate. Here’s a useful metaphor: Think of the goal as your destination, the strategy as your map and the tactics as your vehicles. This is why we’re not going to talk about advertising in this article on marketing and advertising. Advertising is a vehicle, and there’s no use talking about whether you’re walking or driving if you haven’t decided where you are going.
If I want to get from Santa Barbara to Ojai (goal), a map (strategy) will offer multiple routes, so I may need to explore my goal’s objectives in greater detail. Do I want the fastest route or the most scenic route? Are there other objectives I hope to achieve along the way, such as aerobic exercise? The map (strategy) suggests vehicles (tactics), because different routes and objectives will require different choices, from cars to hiking boots to kayaks. But if I don’t know where I’m going or why, I cannot choose my route or my vehicles wisely.
There is a cyclical nature to the goal/strategy/tactics development process: Goal setting is hard at first, but getting a stake in the ground and creating a map/strategy often results in goal refinement or the selection of different, better goals. Anyone who has attended even a single management seminar knows that “SMART” goals are Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic and Time-bound, yet few are disciplined enough to demand these criteria in practice. But I tell you this: Get the goals right and the marketing strategies and tactics practically choose themselves.
— Dean Zatkowsky is communications manager for The Orfalea Foundation.
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Jessica Tade on Marketing and Advertising
￼In chapter three of his book, Charity Case, Dan Pallotta states that “whether you’re a person, a soda brand or an entire sector, your reputation in the media is the net effect of how you come across in paid and nonpaid media.”
Nonpaid media, by and large comprised of print and broadcast journalism, cannot be controlled. Therefore, nonprofit organizations should use paid media to build public awareness and a brand. When nonprofits harness advertising concepts championed in the for-profit world, they can communicate to great effect — growing supporters and boosting donations.
So what can nonprofits do to make paid media work? How can they embrace techniques honed by businesses to bring their strategic plans to fruition? For most nonprofits, a shift is required. They need to shift from sharing stories that illustrate the good work they do to actively “selling” what the organization is trying to achieve. They need to stop letting the name of the organization speak for itself and take steps to define what their “product” is to effectively market that product to the community as part of an overall brand. The role of paid advertising is to help build demand.
Budgets vary. And a small budget can work just as well as a large one. Thoughtful advertising placement targeting specific audiences has the power to deliver significant return on investment. Social media is another option, and can be used at low or no cost. In some ways, it is the great equalizer. And a clever concept can go viral if enough people pass it along.
While some might scoff at the cost of paid media, it can most certainly be justified.
As Pallotta states, “We have not told the public that the (nonprofit) sector must advertise in order to build market demand for charity and that investments in advertising can multiply the impact of a donor’s gift.” Note that he said "investments in advertising." Because that is what spending money on paid media is — an investment in the future of an organization’s ability to fulfill its objectives.
If an organization’s message is compelling, emotional or thoughtful, the consumer will want the organization’s product, sold on the power of the brand.
“Gigantic consumer brands are creating new wants and desires for all manner of new products — putting all kinds of new ideas in the consumer’s mind about flat-screen televisions and luxury cruises and lipstick,” Pallotta states. “Yet the number of new ideas the humanitarian sector has tried to implant in the public’s mind — about our sector, its achievements and new ways we might change the world together — amounts to precisely zero.”
People aspire to be philanthropic, and if given a chance happily become involved. But nonprofit organizations have to implant the ideas — they have to communicate in ways that will compel people to give.
— Jessica Tade is communications and marketing manager at the Santa Barbara Foundation.
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Sigrid Wright on Marketing and Advertising
￼On more than one occasion, I’ve been in a room of nonprofit leaders when someone has been introduced as representing “Santa Barbara’s best-kept secret.” Sometimes that person is me. I speak here not for the well-known organizations with solid name recognition, but for the legion of small, scrappy groups doing great work in relative obscurity.
Colleagues in the for-profit marketing sphere tell me it is common for small- to medium-sized businesses to spend 30 percent of their budget on marketing and advertising. For a $1 million nonprofit like mine, that would be $300,000 a year. Even if we generously calculate all staff time spent on marketing and development, most of us don’t come close.
For those nonprofits that have decided to buck tradition and spend at those levels, the strategy comes at a price. Think Invisible Children’s Kony Campaign. Until 2012, this organization operated in relative obscurity — until it decided to spend about 80 percent of its funds to draw massive public attention to Joseph Kony, ruthless leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa. Within five days of launching a highly produced video, Invisible Children had more than 70 million views on YouTube. However, when the campaign failed to result in Kony’s capture, the group received intense public scrutiny about how its marketing dollars were spent. Would this have been the case if they had succeeded? Or were they punished for trying?
Today’s buzz word is transparency. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be held accountable for our work; we absolutely should. But there’s a double-standard that goes beyond the amount that comparably sized nonprofits and for-profits spend on marketing. We are expected not only to spend less, but held to higher standards if we gamble and spend more.
More concerning is this: not only are we competing with the for-profit sector — which vastly outspends us — but we're also competing with each other. According to Dan Pallotta, charitable giving has been stuck at 2 percent of GDP since 1970 — forcing an increasing number of nonprofits to scramble for a stagnant piece of the pie. While a little competition can certainly keep the sector alert, the overarching “competition model” makes it difficult for organizations to truly embrace collaboration. And for those of us working on major systemic problems in which collaborative issue-based marketing could be effective in getting many people to row in one direction, that to me feels like the greatest hurdle.
— Sigrid Wright is assistant director of the Community Environmental Council.
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Allison Bailey on Marketing and Advertising
￼When “funding the bottom line” is continually emphasized in our 501(c)(3) world (and for my organization that means 92 percent of our personnel), the idea of investing in media and promotional materials can be a risky thought to nonprofit organizations. The notion of increasing or even adding the line item "Marketing and Advertising" often comes into question. Staff and board are usually thinking, “How will funders respond if we are using their support to buy media?” “Nonprofits shouldn’t have to buy media.” “Media have an obligation to promote X amount of PSAs (public service announcements) for nonprofits.” “With social media available, you don’t need advertising.”
How is it that many of us discount the importance of promoting our message and what we do? Why is it so easy to dismiss any need to put on a promotion campaign that requires investment into play to communicate ourselves and communicate our need? For those of us whose organizations have small or nonexistent marketing budgets, how are we expected to get our message out if paid promotion is not part of the operating plan?
I would venture to guess many of you might answer like this: "We use ... word of mouth ... We count on PSAs, letters to the editor, in-kind partnerships with local media, or guest appearances on local media.”
While all of these suggestions are free and relatively easy, they are not always as effective as a marketing plan. With 2,000 nonprofit organizations in Santa Barbara County, creative campaigns and community education can set us apart and communicate a call to action in a very direct and results-oriented way. At the Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Maria Valley, our Board of Directors recognized last year that our top three fundraising events had expenses to them three times that of our Annual Giving Campaign we call Campaign for Kids. The old adage “you have to spend money to make money” had proven true and successful with our two auction events and our golf tournament. So, with a small media and agreed-upon promotion investment, a marketing plan was put in place to increase our Campaign for Kids dollars raised and increase our donor base for this year.
Deciding what mix of promotion to use is different for each organization. For ours, we realized it would take an improved website, a mix of online tools like e-blasts and online giving, and most important, a new promotional piece using real Boys & Girls Club members. In addition, we needed to call people to pledge by hearing our radio commercials on local radio, seeing our ads in local media and seeing our kids on banners and posters throughout the community.
Did we succeed? Our Campaign has increased by 25 percent from the previous year and has added 75 more donors to our cause. With an understanding of using old media platforms that have performed in cooperation with adding new media platforms and with proper management, the return on investment has great potential for any organization. Will we continue to invest in marketing and advertising? As much as I would like to say yes, I’m afraid that the success or lack of generating revenue for the bottom line continues to drive this dollar decision.
— Allison Bailey is development director of Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Maria Valley.
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