Marketing and your Community Group: Developing a 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,
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.
- Finding, new
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.
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
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:
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.
- 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.
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:
- What it does. How it advocates or acts on its stance. Who it
- What it can do. What knowledge it has.
- What it stands for or advocates on behalf of.
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.
- What it has that makes it better than other similar groups, in
the same interest area, geographic or socio-economic area.
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:
For a community group this means research and reflection – looking at
your group and clarifying where it stands in a number of contexts.
- What that "something else" is.
- How you are going to lead people
from where they are now to someplace different.
- How you can communicate the need
- How you can convey the fact that
your group is trying to fill this need.
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:
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.
- Talking to your group members, board or stakeholders. This could
provide the type of direction you are looking to clarify in a marketing
- Spending money on focus groups to gain responses, or
- Organising a survey or questionnaire.
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
- 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'
- 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?
For long term effectiveness, monitor the changing needs and wants of
your stakeholders and adjust what you do, and how you do it,
- 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?
- What are their characteristics?
- Promotion - how you
communicate with your donors, members, volunteers, supporters and
- 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
- 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.
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
- Positioning - where you
are in the market in relation to your non-profit competitors and the
- 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
- 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?
- Who your target is and how your group reaches this audience.
- Are those methods successful or need review.
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