homepage | Jeff Randolph Discusses A Common Marketing Problem Nonprofits Face

June 18, 2024

Jeff Randolph Discusses A Common Marketing Problem Nonprofits Face

by Pete Dulin

EAG Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Randolph

EAG Advertising & Marketing Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Randolph previews key points that participants will explore in Prioritizing Marketing Efforts for Nonprofits. His workshop on July 23, 2024, presents time-honored strategies that nonprofit leaders and their marketing teams can apply today to prioritize and develop your unique marketing mix.

Below, Randolph discusses the common marketing problem that most nonprofits face – focus.

Tuesday, July 23, 2024 – 9-11 am
The Space by Dolce Bakery, 3924 W 69th Terrace, Prairie Village, KS 66208

  • Focus on a target audience. Nonprofits frequently have pressure to serve literally everyone. In a for-profit business, we would see that as a waste of budget and try to narrow our target audience as much as possible. When you mix in a donor audience, board and volunteer audiences, and the vastly broad audience of those we can serve, it can get unwieldy. Forcing the organization to prioritize those audiences can be painful, but very liberating.
  • Focus the budget. Nonprofit organizations are great at doing more with less – which is great. But we don’t want to apply that same mentality to budgeting. Just because we can be on every social media platform doesn’t mean we should be. We want to allocate marketing budget to fully fund the most effective tactics first, then move on to fully fund the next one. 
  • Keep focused on set priorities. Marketing teams at nonprofit organizations (at least in my experience) experience a lot of opportunities to shift their focus. Whether that’s a new partnership opportunity, new funding opportunity, or direction from the board, staying on plan can be a challenge. If we have a priority list based on the organization’s core mission, it becomes a little easier to hold new opportunities up to an established priority of tactics and judge whether or not there is a valid reason to change — or if the organization is best served by saying “not yet.”

Your marketing mix are all of the individual marketing tactics you’re using to move the organization forward. I think many organizations — for profit and nonprofit alike — like to look at their competitors and obsess. They do X better. Or we never seem to be able to do X.

You should absolutely know what your competition is doing. But I’d strongly resist the urge to copy a competitor’s marketing mix. Your marketing mix is just that — it’s yours! Your competition likely doesn’t have a better handle on things than you do and may not be getting everything right. More importantly, finding differentiation from your competitors may be exactly the thing you need to stand out. Focus on getting your game right and obsess just a little less about what they’re doing on any given day. 

Many nonprofit organizations use similar tools, like social media, events and email. But I think you’d be surprised how many organizations aren’t using those tools well. At nonprofit organizations we frequently inherit tactics from our predecessors that we keep using out of tradition more than out of a measured level of effectiveness. Staff wear several hats, making it necessary to fire and forget — to complete a task like building our monthly e-news, hitting send, then immediately moving off to the next task that is on fire. If we can focus on fewer tactics and make them work well, we can earn ourselves a smaller to-do list, but with better execution that stands out. 

Nonprofit organizations will frequently skip the measurement stage – just like many for-profit organizations. After all, measuring our results takes valuable time and, often, money.

Did our awareness increase after this branding campaign? I spent 3 hours last week on social media posts – did they work? Did our most recent email result in donations?

These questions will be asked by an executive director or by a board — but measuring them may be a very complicated and costly project in itself. It’s important that nonprofit organizations know what is meaningful to measure, what a good result looks like, and what role that tactic plays in the overall scope of the organization.

For example, your most recent email may not have resulted in direct (and traceable) donations, but the ask itself may caused a separate donation that isn’t traced to the email, or it may have moved several of your recipients closer to donating in the near future. You don’t want to stop sending email because your email platform can’t track incoming donations back to the source correctly.