Lesson No. 1: Nonprofits Are Marketers

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WASHINGTON -- Joel Zimmerman, director of consulting services for Creative Direct Response, addressed a session this month at the Direct Marketing Association of Washington's annual Bridge conference on the basics of nonprofit marketing.

His point was simple: Nonprofits are, in fact, marketing agents.

"If you are a nonprofit organization that is receiving money and using volunteers, then you are doing marketing," he said. "The focus is on marketing to individual donors."

Marketing for nonprofits tends to be tougher than with for-profit organizations because nonprofits are not trading directly with their customers. The volunteers and donors are surrogate traders for customers.

Mr. Zimmerman cites two challenges in nonprofit marketing. One is making the products and services valuable to customers, and the other is providing donors and volunteers with something they see as worthy to give to.

"Everyone knows what marketing is, but they all do not have the blocks to master it," he said. "Just because you have kids doesn't automatically mean you know how to be a great parent."

Donors also were said to support success, as Mr. Zimmerman compared the situation to fans supporting a winning sports team. An organization can show customer value by giving them what they want and need through an attractive package, convincing promotions, fair prices and excellent products.

Mr. Zimmerman said that nonprofits need a marketing plan to ensure a consistent influx of resources such as time and money, enhanced fundraising and assisting in attracting and retaining volunteers and board members.

"Nonprofit organizations need to take a broad look," he said. "Having action-oriented goals will only enhance the experience for everyone."


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