The 9 Steps of Charity Marketing: A Framework for Success

marketing social media strategy Oct 26, 2023

After more than 15 years in media and another 13 as a nonprofit trainer and strategist, I've realised there are essentially 9 steps to effectively market a charity or nonprofit. I call this my StoryScience framework, but here are the steps for you to work through on your own!

Marketing is an essential component of any charitable organisation's success. Effective charity marketing not only helps raise funds but also spreads awareness, builds a strong community, and advances the mission.

My framework is divided into three phases: Clarity, Strategy, and Implementation.

Phase 1: Clarity - Diagnose, Direction, Innovation

1) Diagnose: Understanding the Problem

When an organisation turns their focus to marketing, it's usually for a clear reason. What you're doing now isn't working or isn't working well enough to hit your target. Charity marketing has become a priority because there are goals you need to achieve and you're not getting there.

The first step in charity marketing is to diagnose the problems you have with your marketing. Here are some of the issues I see regularly:

  • Marketing has dropped out of focus, and you just haven't been finding the time to do it properly. Don't worry that is normal and happens a lot to nonprofits, but it is fixable. 
  • You feel like you're throwing spaghetti at a wall and watching to see what sticks, there is no real plan
  • Everything is ad hoc and you feel like you're recreating the wheel each time and wasting a lot of time and energy.
  • You have HEAPS of marketing ideas, but you're not sure how to assess which one to focus on first and why. 

2) Direction: Define Your Mission and Goals

Once the problem is diagnosed, you need a clear direction. Define your organisation's mission and specific goals. What do you hope to achieve? What are your long-term and short-term objectives? Your mission and goals provide a compass for all your marketing efforts. These are the common challenges my clients come up against: 

  • You don't know exactly who the audience is you're trying to reach (or you think you do, but the profile is too broad or there are too many of them!). 
  • You know your audience, but you're not connecting with them effectively yet the way you're marketing
  • You're not sure if you're using the right marketing and social media channels to achieve your goals
  • Your goals aren't super clear - if you don't know what success looks like, you're never going to get there.
  • Your not entirely clear on what success in marketing looks like for you and how you'll measure it.

3) Innovation: Find Creative Solutions

Now we know what is wrong and not working now and what the end of the journey of successfully charity marketing looks like, we can now work on innovation. We can start looking at all the innovative possibilities available to you and make some nuanced decisions based on what is working in the market, what others do, what suits your resources and budget, and so on.

I heard a really great quote a while - strategy is essentially taking catalogue of all the things you could possible be doing and narrowing it down to the right ones to do now to achieve your goals.

The strategy is going to be different and unique depending on your organisation size, budgets and goals. It could be a new ways of fundraising, attracting partnerships with other organisations, novel approaches to advocacy or just getting your whole organisation really clear on your messaging. Innovation sets you apart from the thousands of other charities marketing in the same audience as you. 

Phase 2: Strategy - Narrative, Framework, Roadmap

4. Narrative: Create a Compelling Story

A compelling narrative is the heart of charity marketing. Everything I do comes from my background as a storyteller. I believe without a doubt that every charity or cause-focused organisation already has a powerful story. Sometimes we're just to close to it to tell it in a way that is going to capture attention with our audience.

In this phase, you look at the story you're telling now and we start to really dig into the heart of your story. Create a one page document that tells the story of your organisation as succinctly as possible. From that you can break it down into key messages and stories your brand should always be telling. 

5. Framework: Develop a Story Structure

Once you have your story narrow, we can start to build it back out into a framework. This is what ultimately keeps your strategy focused in implementation and helps you do more in a lot less time. Instead of ad hoc or throwing spaghetti at the wall, you can now develop a framework of key story pillars your brand will use for your charity marketing.

6. Roadmap: Planning Story Tactics

Now we've been through all these stages, we're clear on what's wrong now, where we want to go, what our innovative ideas area, who we're talking to, our goals and have a clear story to tell. We're all set up ready to now make strategic decisions on the charity marketing tactics we're going to use to get the story out there into the world and in front of your ideal community. Having a roadmap keeps your team on track and makes it really clear what each element of your plan (LinkedIn, email, Facebook, website) is designed to do and how you will use it most effectively. 

Phase 3: Implementation - Education, Tools, Execute

7. Education: Train and Inform Your Team

Don't get to this point and end up with a pretty plan that sits on a shelf somewhere! To succeed at your charity marketing, you know need to identify what education or skills your team is going to need to implement. Do they need some training on stroytelling? Writing content? Designing in Canva? Using the Instagram algorithm effectively? Creating email marketing sequences? Find out where the gaps are and make sure the education and training rolls out immediately, so your team feel confident in tackling the strategy implementation.

Also make sure everyone in the team has read the new charity marketing strategy and knows how they are expected to use it in the course of their job. We want this to be a living document that is used every week, if not every day!

 

8. Tools: Systemise the Processes

When you're doing charity marketing, it is important you put everything in to place you can to make things fast and effective. I love doing that through tools. Whether it is a strategic checklist you can use whenever signing off on any content to make sure it fits the strategy or it's a scheduling tool or measuring tool that lets you get access to the information you need faster.  For some clients, it's even a risk and response plan or a guide to selecting stock images. Whatever you're going to need to execute - create a tool and a system for doing it. Take away ALL the guess work that leads to inaction or confusion. 

9. Execute: Implement and Adapt

Execution is where the rubber meets the road. Implement your charity marketing strategies according to your plan, utilising the tools and knowledge you've acquired. Be prepared to measure your results as you go, ensure all the innovation and assumptions hold and make little adjustments as you go. Don't make changes too fast though, a good strategy takes time to implement and to see the results. 

I always tell my students, I could teach you everything I know - but it all comes down to you. My knowledge and training is useless if you don't take action and make the changes. It's my job to make that process as clear and easy as possible and support you through it, but you still need to execute consistently. Slowly is fine, as long as you're putting one foot in front of the other you'll reach your goals. 

So there you have it, my three-phase, nine-step framework for charity and nonprofit marketing. By diagnosing the issue, creating a compelling narrative, developing a solid strategy, and implementing it with a well-informed and equipped team, your charity can maximise its impact and reach. As you continue to refine and adapt your approach, you'll be better positioned to create lasting change and make a difference in the world.

Happy marketing! 

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