Nonprofit Marketing 101: Need to Create A Nonprofit Marketing Plan? Do This First

February 26, 2019

10 mins

At Cross & Crown, we know how to help passionate people make a difference in the world and many of these difference-makers happen to be nonprofits. Since we first opened our doors, we’ve been creating strategies and tools to help nonprofits raise their voices and maximize their reach.

Our clients are game changers actively creating a better world. We’ve learned a lot from working with nonprofits over the years about the art of engaging communities for the greater good. And now we want to share everything we know about nonprofit marketing with you.

We are kicking off a new series called Nonprofit Marketing 101. We are excited to share with you all of the tips, tricks, and secrets we’ve learned over the years to help your nonprofit create and implement a solid marketing strategy. We know you’re busy and have a full plate already, so we promise that this series will be practical and produce results. The ideas we have will take some time to implement, but the positive results will be so worth the effort. Let’s get started!

The 7 P’s of marketing (product, price, promotion, place, packaging, positioning, and people) don’t apply neatly to a nonprofit organization. So we’ve tweaked them to create the 5 Ps of nonprofit marketing.


It goes without saying that people are the primary focus of your marketing strategy. But it is necessary to describe in detail the people you are trying to reach. Traditional marketing calls this persona research and is a necessary step in defining your target market. 

We find it helpful to actually sketch out two or three imagined personalities of the kind of person you want to reach. It’s very important to be as specific as possible. If you want to reach moms, drill down further to describe what kind of moms you want to reach. New moms? Empty-Nesters? Single Moms? Working Moms? What are their interests, likes, dislikes, goals, passions, convictions? What are their spending habits? On which social media do they spend the most time (e.g. younger moms may spend more time on Instagram or Snapchat while older moms may more often be found on Facebook). What questions do they have? What would get them to stop scrolling and listen to what you have to say? This important step will help you more clearly refine your messaging. 


Every organization needs a mission/vision and core values that underscore what you do and how you do it. These principals will serve as the backbone of the brand you’re creating. Do you have a clear mission/vision? Is it easy to explain?

How about an elevator speech? When you meet someone new and they ask what you do for a living are you able to explain it in a memorable way? If you find yourself saying “it’s complicated” you may need to rethink your talking points.

Both are important for your organization.


When we begin working with a new client we start with a discovery meeting. One thing we are looking for in that meeting is an understanding of your processes and how we can leverage those processes to best communicate your message. What we often find, especially with newer or smaller nonprofits, is that often the organization hasn’t defined, let alone documented any processes. This can feel like tedious or unnecessary work, especially when you started your organization to meet a need—who has time to stop and document processes? But this step is truly mission-critical, not only to your marketing strategy, but to your overall success as an organization.

One of the most important elements of your brand is consistency.

One of the most important elements of your brand is consistency. This includes and goes even further than “good customer service.” You want everyone who interacts with your organization to have a consistent experience because this builds integrity and trust between your brand and the people you’re engaging. Whether that’s donors or those whom you’re serving, the experience must consistently reflect your philosophy from the top, down. Great processes ensure consistency that can take your brand identity from good to great and set you apart from other organizations.

Product & Packaging

Ok so this is two P’s in one but these work together hand-in-hand so we will tackle them as one. Certainly, a nonprofit will not be “selling widgets” as an e-commerce business would but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something to promote. You are solving a problem, creating an experience, proposing a movement, or offering the promise of transformation. And remember, just because you don’t sell an actual product doesn’t mean you don’t have an offering that needs to be “packaged.” The ideas and services you want others to buy-into or get on board with are your goods and you’re wise to ensure that your visual brand elements are truly reflective of your philosophy and process. This is where attention to details such as logo, colors, image strategy, website and overall design elements come into focus. These must be in good shape and consistency reflective of your brand before implementing a more robust marketing strategy.


Sometimes out of urgency, we sometimes see nonprofits skip straight to promotion but we’ve listed it as the fifth of our P’s for a reason. We understand that your work is urgent but before putting your brand “out there” in a more intentional way, it’s imperative to have the other P’s in place and ready to go. When the foundation is laid you can start to build out your tactics. With your personas in mind, begin packaging your ideas in ways that will reach your target audience. The staples include videos, social media engagement, search engine optimization, and public relations. We’ve done the research and brand films/videos are dominating social platforms and predicted to become even more important for brands in the coming years. Not only does nonprofit social media engagement rally the troops around a cause with unprecedented power and effectiveness; but social media posts can also drive traffic to your website by creating more on-ramps for people to find you online.

We often talk with new clients who are eager to get started and want to dive head-first into tactics but it is imperative to have these 5 “P’s” in place, shored up and ready to be deployed into a tactical strategy that can yield measurable growth. The point of having a marketing strategy is to get more traffic so you can ensure your new leads will have a great experience interacting with your brand. Whether you’re looking to build your email list or grow your online giving, start with the 5 P’s of nonprofit marketing as your foundation and get ready to learn how to put those P’s to work in our next several blog posts.

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Cross & Crown is a team of creatives who are passionate about solving problems through design and technology, taking what is there and making it better. Based in Chambersburg, PA, we strive to help educate, advocate, and thrive in a digital world.

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