I was recently asked to talk to marketing directors of small nonprofit agencies about how they could market themselves without spending very much money. I’ve always believed that “campaigns on a dime” require more time to implement because you are depending on volunteers to implement your plan. Also, remember there is a cost to your time and others, for that matter.

I broke my presentation into four different segments:

  1. Developing a good strategy
  2. Finding your compelling story(ies)
  3. Recruiting a strong volunteer base
  4. A signature event

A good strategy has many aspects to it: goals, audience, messaging, and partners, but it also means establishing a way to measure if your campaign is successful. Your idea of success may be different than mine and making sure you are all on the same page will alleviate headaches down the road.

A social media strategy is required of just about any campaign, especially for ones that don’t have a lot of money. The best way to communicate on social media is by telling a story — your story. To hone your messaging, consider these three questions:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What is no one else doing?
  3. What’s important to your audience?

In your responses to these questions is your unique selling point. But, you have to make your audience care if you are going to get them to take action: write a check, volunteer, or sponsor your event. That means you need a compelling story.

You can find your story from your volunteers, clients and contributors. There is a reason they give you money, volunteer their time or need your services. All you have to do is ask them.

If you are looking for volunteers, start with establishing a volunteer marketing committee. You’ll want a designer, PR person, media representative, social media expert, someone from a print shop and more. Ask them for a few hours a week and don’t overwhelm them, but use their expertise to help you implement your plan.

Don’t forget media outlets in your strategy. Local media can help you communicate your message for free (earned media). Broadcast outlets are required by the FCC to promote community events. They don’t have to support every campaign, but they want to align themselves with charities that have a good reputation. But, you have to ask them for their support.

Finally, every successful not-for-profit has a signature event. It allows the organization to keep their name in the public’s eye at least once a year and gives you a focus to raise money, recruit volunteers and to tell your story.

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