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Karen Taggart 4 min read

Live From New York: 2007 DMA Nonprofit Federation Conference

Lessons for Non-profits from the Corporate World 

by Karen Taggart, Director of Nonprofit Services, Care2 


I’ve always believed that one of the best ways to predict the future trends in nonprofit direct marketing is to look at what is going on in the corporate world right now.  Because many
corporations have significantly more resources to dedicate to their marketing programs, they are often a few steps ahead of us in terms of new strategies and innovations – both successful and unsuccessful.

One of today’s sessions at the DMA Nonprofit Federation Conference in NYC focused on just that.  David Feltman, current Director of Direct Marketing at Barclays Global Investors and former nonprofit fundraising guru, said that that the core marketing principles hold true whether you are selling mutual funds or soliciting donations.  However, there are a few areas where corporations are succeeding and nonprofits may want to consider:  

1.)    Investment and strategies for branding -- especially working to create and maintain emotional connections with our “customers”
2.)    Integrate marketing strategies – not just across channels like direct mail, online and phones but across disciplines including direct marketing, PR and advertising
3.)    Emphasize research – don’t just assume we know what our supporters want, get out and talk with them (this does not need to be official market research or focus groups!)

More and more corporate dollars are being invested in branding campaigns to help companies understand and communicate their value propositions as well as differentiate themselves from the competition.  With the increased competition in the nonprofit space, and current trends in decreased donor acquisition and retention, it looks like in the coming years the branding lessons of the for profit world will become essential to our success as well.

The lesson?  We can no longer silo our online, direct mail, PR and adverting worlds by creating disjointed messaging and assume members will flock to us simply because we do great work.  In order to be successful in the future, a nonprofit must truly look within and figure out what we stands for, what makes each of us different, what value we bring to society and why people should love us.

Or, just stop yourself the next time you find yourself shopping online in the middle of the workday and ask yourself “How did I get here?  Why am I buying this?”  Chances are good you were affected by branding, integration and/or research, so take advantage of the expensive studies these big corporations have already paid for and  “borrow” liberally.

Karen Taggart is a Director of Nonprofit Services at Care2.