The Importance of marketing in the NGO sector

Imagine you’re trying to sell something. You know that this thing is fantastic. You know that it can change lives, perhaps even change the world. You get together with some like-minded people and they agree to promote this product too. So now you have a team of people, a great thing to sell, and you want other people to know that they can buy it. What is the first thing you think you’ll need to do it?

Keep that in mind.

Many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have faced a series of financial crises post-2008. The economic recession means that overseas donors are tightening their belts, and shifting their focus. Donors want clear impact – they want to see that the work they’re funding makes a difference. This makes sense, because many of the donors that fund South African organizations must themselves report to donors elsewhere in the world.

But programmes can’t run themselves. They are run by a team. Volunteers are so incredibly important for many NGOs, but they need to be fairly remunerated too. There is a need for a building, perhaps more than one. Milk, coffee, tea might seem like luxuries, but when you are in the business of supporting people they can provide an instant source of comfort. In essence, an organization can’t produce outputs, outcomes, and impact without the human resources inputs that keep them running.

So let us return to the first point for a moment. What is your next step? The answer is marketing.

Marketing is no longer something that NGOs can afford to see as an ‘add on’. It is an essential lifeline to securing local interest in the organization and its cause, and it is a too for securing local financial support for the very important work NGOs do.

As the financial climate changed, many NGOs sought to try marketing themselves to the best of their ability. This worked sometimes, but it is only sustainable in the short term. As in the business world, when someone sells something similar to you, but they make it look better, they will probably sell more. Survival of the fittest applies in all sectors, including the NGO world.

A skilled team (including copywriters, designers, social media experts, market analysts and researchers) can make all the difference. It is important for the marketing strategy to be informed by knowledge of not only issue and NGO, but also of the marketing field, strategies, and models.

As we know, South Africa has many challenges, and equally as many NGOs working to solve them. For NGOs to survive, they need to adapt. But they are not the only ones. Without the support of ordinary people, this new strategy won’t work. It’s necessary for good people to get involved, to share time and where possible money, to make sure that a community of givers is created. A marketing strategy can reach the hearts of people, but it’s the people themselves who need to use their hearts and make a financial investment where it matters.




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