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Non-profits could profit from better communication


The Chronicles of Philanthropy recently discussed an interesting study that showed what I have been preaching for years: Non-profit organizations do not take communications seriously enough. They delegate the task to anyone on staff or the board who is willing to take it on, regardless of their skill level. It’s the first budget line item to get cut, if there’s even a line item to begin with. Or they just don’t do it at all.

Consider these findings:

* Ninety-five percent of respondent non-profit organizations did not conduct any market research to study their audiences or find out if their messages are effective.

* Fewer than 20 percent know what their peers or competition are doing.

* Eighty percent said their board discusses communication only once a year.

All of these facts pale in comparison to the one that really caught my attention. Only a handful of the non-profits surveyed did anything to protect their brand — if they could even articulate what their brand was. They were completely inconsistent in messaging and graphic identity. They had no tools to help board members, volunteers or other key constituencies tell the organization’s story.

The ultra-competitive nature of the non-profit world today dictates that non-profits have the same level of marketing and communications savvy as their for-profit cousins. In many ways, it is even more critical for the non-profits, because they don’t have the big budgets or staffs to afford mistakes.

This study can be summed up with the old adage: penny-wise and pound-foolish. By cutting corners and failing to invest the time and resources needed to create an effective brand and communications strategy, non-profit organizations are keeping themselves from doing their worthwhile and important work.

Drew McLellan is Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group and the author of “99.3 Random Acts of Marketing.” He can be reached at Drew@MclellanMarketing.com.

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