Whenever the opportunity arises, I love to attend nonprofit sector networking events and talk shop with others who work in the field of fundraising. Often, within the conversation at these events, my job as a marketer of a product comes up. I consistently hear the same story from individuals working at nonprofits who struggle with marketing and sales efforts. Yes, I say sales because if you are in development or marketing and communications at a nonprofit, you are in sales.
It is time we talk about the “But, I don’t have a product,” mentality. If you’ve ever spent time pondering or feeling anxious about how to respond to donors that ask “What do I get out of it? ” please pause and take a deep breath.
This way of thinking places blame on being a nonprofit organization and is an excuse. Don’t do this disservice to yourself or your organization. Instead, I urge you to think creatively about the value you and your nonprofit provide. Let’s break it down.
You DO have a product.
Remind yourself of why you (most likely) took a pay cut or often work long hours or weekends for your nonprofit organization.
It is because of the product.
The product is the impact you make. That impact is two-fold: You impact those you serve, and you impact your donors by giving them the opportunity to be a part of making the impact come to life.
What I adamantly believe we can improve upon in the nonprofit sector is to better sell the value of impact. That, in my opinion, is where product marketing comes into the nonprofit professional’s job role.
To focus on your impact and think of your mission as a product, ultimately improving “your pitch,” you need to think about these two things:
#1. Define your value proposition.
What is it that your organization does that brings value to those you serve AND your donors who give?
#2. What are your differentiators?
You’ve got to be able to tell your donors what it is that makes you better able to serve those you impact than another organization. What makes you their best investment for the cause you both want to see succeed?
Here is a simple way to get started, to outline your value prop and differentiators. Think about the following:
What do your donors get?
They get to feel good. Maybe the donor gets his or her name on a brick so they can forever be remembered and feel good about that. Maybe you thank them publicly, and they get to feel good about that. Or maybe you even give them a small token of appreciation they keep on their desk to be reminded every day of how they felt good giving a gift and doing something for the greater good.
What do those you serve get?
They get to have a roof over their heads, or a pair of shoes on their feet, or a forever family to adopt them, or a scholarship to go to college or clean water to drink. It’s these things that you need to make front and center and show your donors. Your donors need to see the pair of shoes on the feet of the person who didn’t have shoes before their gift made it possible.
In summary, if you are a marketing person, a development person or even an IT person at your organization, adopting a product-focused mentality will help you put the impact and value message front and center before your donors even ask the question, “what do I get?”