The not-for-profit industry has come under fire as national trust in many philanthropic organizations rapidly declines. The charity sector of the economy is subject to more and more meticulous scrutiny while many of its fundamental institutions are falling by the wayside. Community hospitals are facing closure across the country. Traditional churches and synagogues are emptying their coffers while simultaneously losing membership across nearly every sect affiliation. Moreover, the sector itself hasn’t grown in the last ten to fifteen years, be that with respect to overall revenue or number of employees.
At the same time, it cannot be said that nonprofits are not prolific or motivated. Many have taken lessons from traditional businesses over the years. Though concepts such as strong branding, improved money management, and a robust leadership structure were once taboo among nonprofit organizations, the majority have adopted the conventions of the modern business in order to better deliver on their promises to do good in the world. Now, in an era of suspicion of corporate motives, businesses would do well to learn from the engagement practices of nonprofits.
While the nonprofit sector has not profoundly expanded in recent history, the management skills of the industry have improved exponentially. The stigma behind management, once regarded only as a byproduct of corporate greed, is gone, now exemplifying a commitment to shrewd fiduciary responsibility, especially in a sector where funds are often tight. Therefore, strong financial and logistical planning is generally something that nonprofits do very well, enabling them to focus further on their mission.
With resources scarce, nonprofits must not only rely on effective branding and building strong relationships with stakeholders to gain support. Granted, there’s a big difference between average consumers and the individuals that nonprofits assist, but learning and acting on their needs is necessary for any business.
The difficult part of this process is often finding enough support to effectively complete a mission. In order for this to happen, benefactors will have to care about the cause that the nonprofits are supporting, a tricky proposition with so many charities clamoring for attention. Nonprofits have, as a result, become adept at telling a story. These stories often humanize the community in need of assistance, explain how the nonprofit plans to help, and includes a call to action in which the audience is encouraged to contribute. Even in for-profit businesses, appealing to an audience on an individual level can often drive others to action more effectively than broadly espousing a product or service.
This whole process is about making connections on an emotional level. As nonprofits can rally communities and bring people together for a common cause, so too can businesses create a passion for their products and services that leads to brand loyalty. A consumer should ideally feel that the companies that they support are in turn supporting them; communication is, as previously mentioned, the key to building a significant relationship.
Viral marketing may be one of the latest trends to grace the Internet, but nonprofit organizations codified the process of getting advertising to socially propagate itself. Even on social media today, nonprofit-oriented news stories dominate feeds, encouraging readers and viewers to make some small difference on their own. And this approach works quite well, gathering support through emotions in a way that for-profit businesses stand to learn from.