Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Starting out on your Group's Marketing Plan

Starting out on your Group's Marketing Plan

Attracting people to your community group as members, donors, volunteers, fundraisers or supporters involves well-prepared, well-targeted, cost-efficient marketing.

The best marketing requires preparation and central to that preparation is the development of a proper marketing plan.

You need to market your community group for all sorts of reasons, including:

  • Finding, new donors/members/volunteers/helpers/fundraisers/supporters; consolidating and improving relationships with existing contacts and reacquainting yourselves with former contacts.
  • Building your 'brand' - its legitimacy, identity and unique differences that make it worthy of public support.
  • Spreading knowledge about your group - what it does, who it works with, etc, through awareness raising campaigns.
  • Fostering goodwill in order to gain support from the public.
  • Leveraging more support or influence among the public, including government or peak bodies who might be able to further your causes, in forums you wouldn't normally be able to reach.
While each of these efforts is different they still overlap and therefore must work together as an integrated whole. In this way your group's varied efforts continue to build on each other and help produce a consistent message in all that you do.

Remember, marketing is everybody's job –
Whether your group is big or small it can be marketed effectively if everyone is involved and able to promote, sell and market it in the wider community.   
This is where a coordinated marketing plan comes into its own.

Marketing vs advertising

It is important for you not to confuse marketing with advertising.
Advertising is just one component in a planned marketing campaign.
Other marketing tools include:
  • Newsletters and publications.
  • Internet site.
  • Stationary – paper, envelopes, etc.
  • Speeches or presentations.
  • Word of mouth communication,
  • The 'look and feel' of your organisation
  • Publicity, media and promotions.
  • The projects you work on.
If people don't know your group, understand your mission, or know what you do and what you stand for, it is much harder to meet your aims or achieve your goals.

Marketing is about getting people on board with your mission and to have them identify your group in the most favourable light.

Developing a marketing plan – The first steps


The first step towards developing a marketing plan is to do some research into your community group in the following areas:
  • Actions
    • What it does. How it advocates or acts on its stance. Who it works with.
  • Abilities
    • What it can do. What knowledge it has.
  • Attitudes
    • What it stands for or advocates on behalf of.
  • Advantages
    • What it has that makes it better than other similar groups, in the same interest area, geographic or socio-economic area.
As your group is in the community or not-for-profit sector, your marketing will differ to that done by those in the private sector. In the private sector, market research is based on finding out what people want and then developing the most effective way to give it to them.

In the community or not-for profit sector you are not necessarily about giving people "what they want".  Your mission may in fact be to change "what they want" to "something else" entirely!  It may be about filling a gap or addressing a need in society or in the public arena.
This means your group has to know:
  1. What that "something else" is.
  2. How you are going to lead people from where they are now to someplace different.
  3. How you can communicate the need in society
  4. How you can convey the fact that your group is trying to fill this need.
For a community group this means research and reflection – looking at your group and clarifying where it stands in a number of contexts.

When you know where you stand and what you are trying to achieve you are in a position to develop a strong marketing plan which allows you to convey a clear message to the community and thereby attract other people to joining your cause.

Methods of research include:
  • Talking to your group members, board or stakeholders. This could provide the type of direction you are looking to clarify in a marketing plan.
  • Spending money on focus groups to gain responses, or
  • Organising a survey or questionnaire.
Research helps further clarify where your group stands; what it stands for; how it currently markets itself and how others perceive the marketing of your group.


Your community group should already know its policies and procedures, but before you embark on assembling your marketing plan your group needs to clarify where it stands on a number of policy positions.

A marketing plan involves decisions on what can be called the "6 P's":
  • Product – the message, service, stance, activities, assistance, advice, opinion or feeling you have to offer.
    • Think about what your group does and what it offers or stands for.
    • Think about what your group's unique selling point is:
      • For a sporting club it might be its family environment or recent success. For a health support group it may be the services it has to offer, for a lobby group it may be its vast membership and ability to influence decision-makers, for another it may be the prominence of special events.
  • Price – how much it costs for a membership to your group, how much you are asking people to donate, or how much time you ask volunteers to give.
    • Think about what those buying memberships are getting in return, or what your group is spending donors' money or volunteers' hours on.
    • Also consider what your group is charging or asking for.  Is it too high or too much?  Could it put people off joining, donating or volunteering?
    • Examine any costs you incur in supplying services or staging events. Are donations, funds raised, membership dues, etc. sufficient to cover costs?
  • People – the existing or potential members, volunteers, donors, helpers, or supporters you are targeting your marketing at.
    • Think about how you pick the targets for your direct marketing?
    • Where do you find them?  
    • What are their characteristics?
For long term effectiveness, monitor the changing needs and wants of your stakeholders and adjust what you do, and how you do it, accordingly.
  • Promotion - how you communicate with your donors, members, volunteers, supporters and funders.
    • Think about the most effective ways you can do this – both for your group and those you are promoting to.
    • It is important to target your audience.  Choose the appropriate message for your audience and then choose the appropriate medium, or means of communication to reach them.  This medium could be newsletters, direct mail-outs, website, billboards or posters and so on.
    • What you say, how you say it and through what means you say it are vital in reaching the people you want as your customers – and you need to get these elements right.
  • Place – how and where you deliver what you have to offer – in other words, your methods of distribution.
    • You want your product to be available at the right place at the right time and you want your customer to enjoy the experience.
    • Using the example of a community health group, research would need to be conducted on:
      • Where, when and how members, volunteers, donors, helpers and supporters prefer to receive information. They may, for example, prefer email bulletins, newsletters, website access or via resources available at the organisation's office.
      • Any changes in these preferences of recent times.  For a health group, it might mean more people want personal information from staff rather than by email or posted newsletter.
      • How accessible and visible are the planned "delivery locations" to your audience.
        • Again, the health group may think about whether it is in the right location for people to access (easy to get to, near public transport, etc.) and does that location allow them to service any needs or offer referrals to a nearby hospital or clinic.
  • Positioning - where you are in the market in relation to your non-profit competitors and the public.
    • Think about:
      • What is the one thing you want people to think of when they hear your organisation's name?
      • What are people's perceptions of you and what you offer in relation to competitor groups? How do you differentiate your work from that of similar organisations working in the same field? What makes you stand out?
      • Are you more accessible? Do you give a more complete service? Are you more fun, more committed, bigger or better organised? More successful? More efficient? More practical?
    • Also think about:
      • Who your target is and how your group reaches this audience.
      • Are those methods successful or need review.
The second part of this help sheet, available by Clicking Here will lead  you through the eight steps you can follow to develop a marketing plan for your group or organisation.