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Target Audience and Brand Work for Nonprofit Organizations

Boards frequently complain to the CEO that “we’re not getting our name out there.”  What do these board members mean? Do they want to see stories in the New York Times?  USA Today?  On the NBC evening news?

This is a great example of why marketing is an important area of effort for nonprofit organizations. The nonprofit needs to be clear on who their Target Audiences are.  And among them must be those receiving services (primary customers), prospects who might benefit from the nonprofit service (prospective primary customers), donors (supporting customers) and donor prospects (you get the drift).

Nonprofit organizations with substantial ($5 million or more) budgets usually have a communication staff professional who sees to outreach to Target Audiences. The vast majority of these public benefit organizations (small to mid-size) cannot afford such a staff position. In this case, the board works with staff to identify volunteers with expertise in communications and public relations to advise on and help shape messages.  It’s not just about creating messages and getting them out “there.”  Wherever “there” is.  Using e-mail including Constant Contact, newsletters, media releases to print and broadcast outlets, releases to corporate newsletters in the nonprofit service area, releases to church bulletins.  All of this work helps get the message out.

But what message exactly?  Each nonprofit has a story to tell.  The staff person or volunteer task group working to identify the Brand and get Brand messages to Target Audiences approaches this work in a thoughtful, plan-ful way.  Shipping out a stack of press or news releases to various media outlets does not cut it.  Contacts at these outlets should be cultivated, relationships formed, and in a deliberate way, information goes to these media.  If this is done in a sound manner, if the messages are low on hyperbole and high on interesting facts for readers or listeners…reliable, solid information….the story will be told, the message will get out there and people (i.e. board people) will be happy.

But guess what.  This is work.  And if there is not staff to do it, the board needs to help locate volunteers who will do justice to this important job..

When all this happens, the nonprofit and its stakeholders get closer to the kumbaya experience.

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