How can you market a not-for-profit without looking like a profiting business?


Positioning your non-profit organization is far from easy. When you operate an institution that is constructed similarly to a conventional business, receives money from a base of regular and first-time donors, and has to market itself, it is difficult not to look like a profiting company.

The problem with this is that you will have to conduct marketing campaigns every bit as rigorous (if not more) than profiting businesses because without brand awareness, no one is going to donate to your cause. 

Conventional enterprises can rely to some extent on word-of-mouth, returning customers, and the aspirational nature of certain industries to power them to commercial success. 

Unfortunately, because donors receive nothing but the warm feeling of helping others in return for their donations, you will find it harder to convince both new and existing donors to spend their money with you.

However, if you appear too cynical with your marketing, then your non-profit can quickly suffer a reputational crisis. 

It is a tricky line to walk, which is why this guide is here to help:

Seek guidance from marketers who work with non-profits

Marketing for a non-profit can feel like a high-wire act at times because it is so difficult to achieve a balance between impactful marketing and commercialism. 

If you are not a professional marketer, then it is unwise to attempt to solve this issue alone, especially when there are marketing agencies like Eleven Marketing that specialize in helping non-profits market their causes and attract donors. 

By seeking guidance from a team of professionals, you can construct marketing campaigns that achieve results without looking like you’re a profiting business.

Keep your ethical aims at the heart of your campaign

When you are marketing for a non-profit, it is best to keep your core aims at the center of every marketing message, post, and campaign. You should regularly remind your target audience of the pressing importance your cause presents. 

By highlighting why your chosen cause is important, donors will be less interested in your marketing strategy and more emotionally engaged by the subject matter – which is how it should be. 

Whether you offer these messages in the video, audio, letter, or social media form, your marketing should continually revolve around the cause you are helping rather than the non-profit itself.

Highlight the impact of your work

While the core marketing message of your non-profit should undoubtedly be the cause, you should seek to follow it up by highlighting the impact your non-profit has had on the people or places you are trying to assist. 

This will bring legitimacy to your requests for donations, as your target audience will feel they really can make a difference. 

Many people are suspicious of how much money those who work for non-profits really make, so it could also be worth highlighting how much of the donor’s money will go towards the cause itself. By laying out your internal processes like this, you will encourage others to trust your organization and part with their hard-earned money.