Marketing for Charities on the Cheap


            If you have read a few of my earlier blog posts you know that I do think even small nonprofit organizations need to invest in marketing (or maybe I should say small nonprofits especially need to invest in marketing). One book that has some very practical advice on low cost marketing for charities is the text by Levinson, Adkins and Forbes titled Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits. Especially useful information on low cost marketing techniques is described in their chapter: Guerrilla Social Media. The authors suggest:” Guerrillas know a good deal when they see one. And social media is a very good deal for guerillas because they focus on reaching individuals instead of merely selling their ideas to markets. With a little time, energy and imagination, nonprofit guerillas deepen relationships with their clients and supporters and increase the frequency of exposure of their message to the people they want to reach by using social media (Levinson et. al. 2010, p.195). The authors have an interesting description of why they think social media is so effective for charities. They describe;” …social media is designed to spread information through relationship networks quickly. It works on the same principle of Six Degrees of Separation. The Six Degrees principle states that people are so interconnected with one another by human social relationships that no one person is ever more than six people connections from any other person on earth. Some researchers believe because of the popular use of social media people are now separated by only three degrees (Levinson et. al. 2010, p.197).  These authors suggest that nonprofit organizations need to consider opportunities to take advantage of this ability to spread information quickly. For example they advise: “The messages of your viral outreach need to be easy to grasp without explanation and easy to pass on to others (p.198). Additionally they suggest;” Give people the content they need to pass on your viral marketing. Provide assets for your audience to make their own videos, allow them to put their pictures in an e-card, anything that helps to put them into the storyline and send to their contacts (p.199).

         Other writers have provided similar observations that social media is changing the way people receive information or are willing to receive information and how charities can use these new preferences to gain support. For example  Miller (2009) point out:” In place of once trusted institutions consumers are increasingly looking for alternative sources of information and advice to help guide the myriad of decisions they make in everyday life, including their purchasing and donating decisions. In particular, in search of authenticity and independence, they are turning to the opposite end of the scale from the big traditional sources. To friends, family and countless others that they have never met, but through the use of online recommendation activities that they treat as informed and trusted peers” (p.366)”. 

              When considering how this change can be responded to Miller (2009) suggests;” We need to move from the direct marketer’s focus of building and mailing mass contact lists and develop new online fundraising products that supporters will want to take to their friends and wider networks themselves. As we flip the funnel and our supporters become a key channel through which we communicate, the professional fundraisers role will increasingly become that of community manager rather than campaign manager, as each community fundraises in that way that works best for them.”

             The fortunate reality for small nonprofits is that visibility and awareness can be achieved at a lower cost than some traditional media. However it is likely a reality that small charities will need to become proficient in using these tools not only because they are cost effective but also because their stakeholders do/will prefer it. Levinson et. al (2010) point out;” The question is not if your organization will use social media , it is more a question of when. Your donors are looking for a more personalized relationship with your nonprofit. New generations of volunteers, donors and clients don’t just prefer social media, the demand it.  Today’s younger generation communicates with one another using social media and texting, not email and snail mail.”


Miller, B. (2009) Community fundraising 2.0-the future of fundraising in a networked society?

         International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing. V14, n1: 365-371.

Levinson, J.C, Adkins,F. & Forbes,C. (2010) Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits: 250 Tactics to Promote,

           Recruit, Motivate and Raise More Money: Irvine: Entrepreneur Press


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