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Good Marketing > Good Governance

One measure of an effective nonprofit board of directors is the level of comprehension and commitment to strong marketing practice. I know that some members of nonprofit boards scoff at marketing as alchemy and opt for the purity of the program they deliver to their clients. Well, I tell ya. If you don’t understand what makes your client tick, your program may not be worth a bucket of spit. Good marketing, as Peter F Drucker taught and as the Leader to Leader Institute persists in telling us, starts with the customer. And the primary customer is the person who benefits from the service your nonprofit provides. And if we’re not taking the time to check in with our customer/client and gauging the effectiveness of the program we’re providing we’re missing the boat.
Our work, designed to accomplish our mission, has to be based on the market it’s targeting. And the work should represent our brand in the most excellent way possible to shore up our creditibility with our supporting customers: our volunteers, our donors, our stakeholders.
Commitment to that level of quality, based on a clear understanding of what serves our customer best, will provide us with the data that will help make donors take us seriously.
Yes, your nonprofit organization should be mission-driven.
But your nonprofit must be market-sensitive.
One reason why the Harlem Children’s Zone is so effective is because everyone in that organization gets the fundamentals of their market. They built their effective program block-by-block. Harlem Children’s Zone makes it easy for children receiving service to concentrate on the important stuff, because they figured out how to coordinate the array of services needed in a way that receiving service doesn’t get in the way of the focus on education.
Every member of every board of directors needs to be oriented to this kind of thinking. It’s The Results. Know your market, design appropriate response to the needs of your primary customers, and keep refining and improving on that response and the donating public will open your website, see the value, and vote to be a part of it.
And that, my friend, is what separates the effective nonprofit from the run-of-the-mill.

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