Marketing for nonprofit organisations



The main purpose of nonprofits is to influence people. This may mean encouraging behavioural and psychological change through education or support, working towards social change, or collecting donations.

Influencing people in the current economic climate is not easy, particularly due to increasing competition from other nonprofits. There are an estimated 600,000 nonprofit organisations in Australia, all competing for limited resources from a limited number of donors, funders and supporters.

So how do you get your nonprofit to stand out from the crowd?

One way is marketing.

A study into the marketing strategies of nonprofits in 2009 revealed that only 36 per cent of nonprofits surveyed have clearly specified marketing objectives. Only one-fifth of these organisations have employed formally trained marketing staff (Dolnicar and Lazarevski, 2009). Do you know what your organisation's marketing objectives are? Do you have the resources and capacity to achieve them?

Marketing is about much more than selling products. Like nonprofits, marketing seeks to influence people to behave in a certain way. It does this through forming and maintaining relationships with people, and communicating information about a particular cause, event or service.

Consider the range of marketing tactics used to promote our Innovate Symposium #3. These include:

  • Blog posts
  • Social media updates
  • Direct email marketing
  • Cross-promotion with other events
  • Word-of-mouth marketing
  • Website promotion
  • Monthly newsletters

Other marketing tactics used in nonprofits include:

  • Researching and maintaining databases of volunteers, donors, and other people related to the organisation
  • Distributing marketing materials such as brochures, flyers and branded products such as pens

Marketing can also help differentiate your organisation through branding, or building a brand. Branding can communicate an organisation’s mission and values, a unique social contribution, or a promise to the public. 

Think of some major nonprofit organisations. What is unique about them? What reason will people choose their service or product over others? How do they communicate this unique selling proposition to others?

Now think about what your brand says about you? Survey your clients and supporters to see if their opinion on your brand matches what you think. Perhaps you could recruit volunteers using our Linkki service to help you run this branding exercise.

Nonprofit marketing has many challenges, including limited funds and resources. Nonprofit marketing must also reach multiple target markets - the market that provides revenue from products and services, and the market that provides the organisation with funding from donations, grants or contracts.

The internet is a perfect starting place for nonprofit marketing when it comes to the number of people that can be reached and the low cost involved. The uptake of social media creates many opportunities to promote your organisation, as well as the chance for your clients and supporters to do the same for you. Consider recruiting volunteers to brainstorm social media and online marketing ideas for your organisation. Read more in our virtual volunteering and digital engagement research


There is no one size fits all approach to nonprofit marketing. The most effective marketing strategy depends on a number of factors, including your organisational goals and objectives, target audience and available resources. Ongoing evaluation is essential to chart progress and success of your marketing plan.

Has your organisation implemented a successful marketing strategy? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

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