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Marketing Volunteers: Orientation Package

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This is the fourth in a series of four articles that explain how to attract and manage marketing professional volunteers.

Because marketing differs by industry, your new volunteer consultant will need to learn what marketing issues are specific to the nonprofit industry.

Any time a marketer gets a job in a new industry, they are oriented by their new supervisor and marketing peers. But your new volunteer consultant may have to learn on their own. This orientation package has the same information that a new employee would obtain from their marketing peers: the statistics they need as well as the soft stuff — the things that everyone does but no one talks about. This package is written by a marketer for a marketer.

Orientation Package: Give this to your new Marketing Volunteer Consultant

You have three learning objectives

1. Learning nonprofit marketing. Each industry has its own unique characteristics. The goal of this package is to summarize the marketing issues common within the nonprofit industry. This page does not teach basic marketing because we assume you have marketing expertise from other industries or from business courses. This link compares for-profit vs nonprofit marketing.

2. Marketing your nonprofit. Read the case studies to help you customize the generic advice and templates to the needs of your nonprofit. There are three marketing best practices that virtually all nonprofits should follow.

3. How to be a consultant. Make sure you are given a initial contract. The project close form will quantify results you can put on your resume. Other aspects of being a consultant are not discussed in this website, e.g. how to attract new business. See suggested reading below.

There are two bottom lines

The financial bottom line and the social bottom line are both impotant to nonprofits. There are two triggers that nonprofit employees respond to. Some employees are persuaded by suggestions that will improve the financial efficiency of the nonprofit. Some employees will be motivated by the impact on the cause, the social bottom line. Before making suggestions, be prepared to stress the benefits to the bottom line the listener is attracted to.

The sector is very diffuse

The largest 5% of nonprofits control 85% of revenue/donations generated in Canada.

Size Revenue Nonprofits Revenue
Large $10 million+ <1% 60%
Medium $1 - $10 million 5% 25%
Small <$1million 95% 15%
Total N/A 161,000 $112 billion

Small vs big; for-profit vs nonprofit

The top 300 nonprofits in Canada that are large enough to employ a marketing department are very similar to for-profit corporations in terms of culture, projects, use of marketing language and the use of formal, strategic marketing plans. The differences between for-profit and large nonprofits are minor. The differences between large nonprofits and small nonprofits are major. Most nonprofits are small, service-oriented organizations that need tactical advice.

Marketing plan versus three best practices

It is always worthwhile to review the template of a marketing plan to ensure you think about all important issues. However, in small nonprofits, it may not be worthwhile to write out a formal marketing plan, unless you have an audience of marketers who are willing to give you feedback. In informal environments, your audience may be more receptive to the three best practices.

Marketing to service-recipients vs marketing to donors

If your nonprofit needs help marketing to the recipients of a service (for example, an arts organization selling tickets), you may be inspired by Kotler’s book Strategic Marketing for Non-profits which focuses on selling a service. If your nonprofit needs help furthering a cause (e.g. obesity, environment), consider Kotler’s book on Social Marketing. If your nonprofit needs help on marketing to donors, check Kotler’s book on Marketing Professional Services which focuses on developing a for-profit relationship but covers topics such as acquisition vs retention, analyzing profitability and the seven P’s.

Size of your cause

Keep in mind how the cause for your selected non-profit fits within the Canadian non-profit sector. For example, Social Services are attractive to 39% of Canadian donors, yet receive only 9% of the dollar amount. This points to an opportunity for obtaining more donations from the existing donors Social Service non-profits already have. Consider spending more time and effort retaining donors, before acquiring new donors. See acquisition versus retention.

Donations by cause, Statistics Canada 2007

Cause Number of Donors Revenue
Religion 36% 46%
Health 56% 15%
Social Services 39% 9%
International 7% 6%
Hospitals 18% 6%
Grantmaking 10% 4%
Education & Research 14% 2%
Sports & Recreation 14% 2%
Environment 7% 2%
Law, Advocacy, Politics 5% 1%
Other N/A 7%

Hierarchy vs consensus building

Expect nonprofits to desire buy-in from a wide range of employees. The board of directors may be involved in operations, which can slow down the speed of decision making. Make sure you report to one employee and not a committee. It will be your contact’s job to obtain consensus internally.

Partners vs competitors

Other nonprofits within the same cause will sometimes be considered partners with differing mandates or territories, despite the fact that they are all approaching the same donors. Here is an analogy: internal departments within a corporation with the same goals competing with each other for a finite budget.

About you

A “professional volunteer” is who you are. A “volunteer consultant” is what you do. Two sides of the same coin.

Professional volunteers may be hard for nonprofits to manage. Professional volunteers are a relatively new concept and are managed by senior staff who are juggling other responsibilities. Typically, nonprofits obtain volunteers for events and operations who are managed by a mid-level employee called a Volunteer Administrator.

You need to create trust. Be honest about your intentions and what you want out of the relationship, which is likely more than just “giving back”. There must be an exchange for your service. Do you need intellectual stimulation or camaraderie? Do you need to expand your resume? Are you connected to the cause because of personal or family reasons? See this link for a list of potential motivators.

Price is a signal. People expect to get what they pay for. So as a volunteer, how do you replace price? Quantify your contribution in hours. See the project close form.

You cannot receive a tax receipt for the equivalent value of your donated time.

Dress in Friday casual clothes.

Expect to learn, from the nonprofit sector, how to motivate employees without using salary or benefits as a motivator.

Expect to feel good. Helping others can give you a sense of vitality and improve your mood. The book Healthy Pleasures compares a “helper’s high” to a “runner’s high”.

The vocabulary is different

Marketing concepts in the for-profit and nonprofit industries are similar but the language used to discuss those concepts is different. Different languages in different industries is common, but in the nonprofit industry business terminology can trigger unexpected emotion.

If you encounter an emotional reaction to a comment you make, check whether the reaction is to the concept or whether you inadvertently used business terminology. A more common reaction may be that the listener will quietly tune you out, avoid you and you will never understand what happened. Switching between for-profit and nonprofit languages may well be the hardest part of your assignment and still confounds marketers who have been working in the nonprofit industry for years. Here are some examples:

  • CEO vs Executive Director
  • customer information file vs donor database
  • clients who pay for a service vs clients are provided a service while donors pay
  • sales department vs fundraising department

Top eight definitions

1. Segregated funds - funds donated for a specific purpose.

2. CRA - Canada Revenue Agency

3. Nonprofit vs charity - There are 161,000 nonprofits in Canada; about 50% are charities. Both a nonprofit and a charity reinvest any profit back into operations and do not distribute to shareholders (like a for-profit business). About half of the nonprofits in Canada have obtained a designation from the CRA for charitable status, which allows them to give tax receipts so they can solicit donations to fund their work. The remaining half of nonprofits are typically member-based organizations and cannot offer tax receipts for donations.

4. Social purpose enterprise - Often a department within a nonprofit. The purpose is to make profits to fund part or all of the ongoing operations of the nonprofit. For example, making a profit on widgets to fund advocacy activities that do not generate donations. The definition of social purpose enterprises is evolving, so expect confusion.

5. In-kind donations vs cash donations - donors receive a tax receipt for both. An in-kind donation refers to a donation of goods as opposed to cash. A donation of time or services is not eligible for a tax receipt.

6. Corporate sponsorship vs corporate donations - many corporations have two budgets. One budget donates funds or in-kind products and receives a tax receipt and often charities are selected based on employee interests. Another budget sponsors events or locations that are in line with the corporate brand and does not provide a tax receipt. Here, charities are selected based on the promotional image of the corporation.

7. Case for Support - a multi-page proposal to request funds from a major donor (including foundations and corporations). Topics should be customized for each donor and include: achievements, stories, profiles of other donors, specific requests, budgets, evaluation plans, etc.

8. Acquiring new donors vs retaining existing donors - See link for a definition of acquisition vs retention. If your nonprofit asks for your help to obtain “more donations”, don’t assume that means more new donors. It may mean retaining donors. See the Donor Churn report.

How to be a consultant (suggested reading):

The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, Robert Galford.

Getting Naked: a business fable about shedding the three fears that sabotage client loyalty by Patrick Lencioni.

Books to learn about Nonprofit Marketing (suggested reading):

The Nonprofit Marketing Guide by Kivi Leroux Miller.

Money for Good by Hope Consulting, qualitative and quantitative survey of US donors in 2010.

Social Media for Social Good by Heather Mansfield.

Nonprofit Management 101 by Darian Rodriquez Heyman.

Lelia MacDonald is a Volunteer Consultant with MAS, a free consulting firm that serves Toronto nonprofits since 1993. MAS is a charity with 40+ volunteer consultants that is funded by donations from satisfied clients. You can apply for help at   Lelia also has her own website and is available via Skype across Canada.

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