Here’s the reality: Many non profit organizations work HARD on their marketing and still don’t get the traction they want (and need).

They feel frustrated and confused because their meticulous posting, sharing, and mail out schedules aren’t bringing in results. Their logo redesign doesn’t seem to make an ounce of difference in building awareness.

If this is you, here’s what’s important to understand: there’s no fatal flaw in what you’re doing. In fact, you’re doing a lot of things right.

The trouble is that something has been skipped. And that something is so critical that it builds the foundation for everything else.


When non profits focus on marketing before really figuring out what they are marketing and why anyone should care, they will struggle to connect with their audience and will have to constantly hustle to find new donors.

So, do you know your what and why?

These questions are an important start:

  • Who is your non profit for? And not only who do you serve, who serves you in terms of donors, staff, volunteers, community partners?
  • What are you offering? Obviously this includes the services you provide, but I bet you offer WAY more than that. Do you provide a place for people to build relationships, get support, or develop their talents? Think of some of those innate needs we each have – the need for freedom, connection, mastery, purpose – and figure out what you offer to support those needs.
  • Why are you special? People have SO MANY places they can share their money and time. Why would they want to pick you?
  • How are you different?  This might sound like the last question, but being special and being different aren’t the same. You can have two special organizations that do exactly the same thing. So what about your way of doing things sets you apart from others?

Quick example:

I recently worked with a non profit organization who is mainly funded by the government. But they – like many of you – were looking for alternative funding opportunities.

We went through a number of ideas on how they could boost donations. Our goal was to get away from that traditional “Please Donate $100” pitch, and it didn’t take long to land on a strategy that seemed like a fit: fundraising packages.

Here’s how it worked. We created 3 specific cases for different donation amounts:

  • Sponsor a walker for $50
  • Repair equipment for $200
  • Provide a wheelchair for $450

All great stuff, right?

Well…it’s a start.

The most important step was to connect the individual packages with the why of that organization: Mobility, Independence, Dignity. So with every donation someone makes, they clearly contribute to that vision. And suddenly this one walker does not only help someone to get from A to B.

That link between the campaign and the purpose is what creates a deeper connection and willingness to get involved. It’s what communicates how your why – the values and social responsibility piece of your organization – connects to your what – your programs and campaigns.

And that’s how you move from marketing to branding.

Let’s drill down into how you make that shift a purposeful one:

#1. Stop Selling. Start Showing.

Here’s an analogy for you: Marketing is like dating.

That’s right. Dating. Go with me on this one…

If you were on a first date with someone and they asked you what you’d like to name your kids (as in the kids that you and that person w

ould have together), your eyebrows would probably go up. Way up.

If it was me, I’d be thinking, “I don’t know you. I don’t trust you. Not a chance.” (And then I’d get the heck out of there.)

Non profits can make people feel the same when they ask for a donation before getting acquainted, yet this is EXACTLY what so many do.

With little success.

The doorbell rings and someone wants you to donate for a cause that you don’t know about. Or you see a FB ad asking for donations but you have no idea who they are, what they do, or why they are reaching out to you.

Or, maybe you’ve been “dating” someone forever but haven’t invited them to your home. If your non profit constantly shares useful information without a call to action, here’s what you’ll get: No traction. The relationship will never move forward.

Instead, you need to help your audience see why they would want to get to know you better. You invite them along to do the things you like to do. You expect it to take a little time.

And, most important, you pay attention to when the relationship is ready to move to the next level and you plan those moments down to the detail.

You see, it’s not that your prospective donors don’t want to support you.

They just want to date first.

#2. Build trust. Create consistent touchpoints.

Your brand is the basis for consistency. When a potential donor follows you on social media, likes your tweets, reads your FB posts and joins your email list, you follow the rules of a healthy relationship. You are creating a consistent experience that spans all touchpoints.

Back to the dating analogy…

If you are dating someone and find that they treat you COMPLETELY different when you are out at a restaurant, versus at a football game, or staying in to watch a movie, it’s going to be confusing.

And it’s going to be a turn off.

Your non profit needs to build consistency – the kind that shows integrity and builds trust – into your branding first, and then your marketing second… In that order please. 🙂

#3. Be relevant. Connect on a deeper level.

In order for people to support you, they have to know you exist. Then, they have to build a relationship with you. You’ll know you’ve got a good start when you’ve increased your KLT factor: people will know, like, and trust you.

After that, people need to know that you are doing something that matters… That you’re out there solving problems, and that your purpose and values match their identity and needs.

People need to know that you are doing something that matters and that your purpose and values match their identity and needs. - Kerstin Heuer Click To Tweet

Only when they see your relevance will they be willing to contribute.

This process can happen over a quick chat or it may take years. And skipping steps will not work if you’re looking to grow the kind of connection that produces genuine support.

But there’s a hack: Branding.

Because branding is really about being clear about what core purpose drives your organization and communicating that message, developing a thoughtful brand is the fastest way to get that deep connection with people.

When you put yourself in the right place, at the right time, with the right message, and provide the right mindset and the right offer, you cannot help but be relevant to the people you are trying to reach.

Branding will attract a tribe to you…people who are like-minded and who believe that your work is important.

And you can start creating what they need in order to get excited about the work you do today.

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