Non-profit Marketing and Building Your Database

Christopher Penn’s latest blog entry on the value to non-profit marketers of building your database got me thinking. I won’t regurgitate what Penn said, but I would like your feedback on it. To read his entry click here.

My initial reaction is to agree that it is very important to gain actionable information from your campaigns…email addresses, phone numbers, etc. And, I also agree that awareness raising campaigns that are only awareness raising campaigns may not be the most effective use of marketing dollars. However, where I disagree is that I don’t believe direct marketing through email is the most effective use of marketing resources either.

In my opinion, the most effective way an organization such as a non-profit can do marketing is to build real relationships. Instead of relying on one-way communication such as email or banner ads on MySpace, organizations should creatively try to engage people on a level that gets them to invest in the cause past providing an email address. How will they do this? It really depends on the cause or the organization. One-size-fits-all marketing tactics are tired. New social media technologies like Twitter allow people and organizations to make real connections that widgets don’t. Widgets may not be en vogue next year, but conversation and connection has always been around.

To do this, non-profit marketers will need to forget that their title is “marketer” and start thinking like an organizer. To think like an organizer means that marketers will need to forget the traditional marketing tools and start looking for what will get people to take ownership in the cause. This may bed slower and less sexy, but I believe the long-term results of such marketing will make the sweat investment worth it.

Let me know what you think.

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2 comments so far

  1. John Haydon on

    Will,

    Hey – it’s been a while!

    You mentioned that “organizations should creatively try to engage people on a level that gets them to invest in the cause past providing an email address. How will they do this?”

    Seth Godin spoke with a number of non-profits about getting their fans to spread the word about their non-profit instead of spamming people with direct mail. See this post:

    http://www.corporatedollar.org/2008/09/seth-godin-on-creating-a-non-profit-thats-remarkable/

    Take care,

    John Haydon
    http://www.corporatedollar.org

  2. Will Boyd on

    Thanks John,

    I agree with Seth. I just finished re-watching Clay Shirky’s preso on Ted.com. Clay talks about institutions as enablers vs. institutions as barriers. I think these things go hand in hand.

    Is your organization doing everything it can to enable people to spread the message? Or is your organization trying to control the message to the point it is a barrier to people engaging with the cause?


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