Typically annoyed by promotional interruptions to my Facebook stream, I will admit that one of today’s sponsored posts gave me pause. The news story featured Gwyneth Paltrow who had accepted Chef Mario Batali’s #FoodBankNYCChallenge. Not easily distracted by another Hollywood “who’s who” moment I continued to skim, but something stopped me. What Food Bank Challenge? What do you mean $1.38 per meal? Realistically, no one can eat for $29 a week, especially in New York City.

What I was reading, or rather feeling, was the reality of hunger in America. The more I read, the more I wanted to learn. The more I learned, the more my heart sank. Admittedly, we marketers can be a bit analytical (OK, harsh) when on the consuming side of communications. But for a moment, I turned off my “marketing sponge” and entered the world Food Bank For NYC had created for me. And I was smitten, then impressed. So I just had to return to my marketing ilk.

nonprofit marketing


A few nonprofit marketing best practices your charity may wish to consider:

Cause-based Commitment

Create an opportunity for supporters to support a cause, not just an organization.

  • Though the Boomers may retain the buying/giving power for now, the Millennials will overtake this generation as of 2017. And they are already rewriting the rules of giving for nonprofit organizations. “According to the CEO of Achieve and researcher for The Millennial Impact Derrick Feldmann, “What motivates Millennials is a desire to affect THEIR cause through YOUR organization with their friends.”
  • Over the last couple of years it seems we have been bombarded by a “flavor-of-the-month stunt” for one nonprofit or another. Food Bank For NYC’s approach is refreshing with its simplicity, authenticity and immersion. Truth be told, they are not the first ones to launch this conversation. But I suspect they will be one of the most successful.
  • When the actions your supporters take are unrelated to the cause, will you be able to sustain them as a donor? Will the story become more about the stunt and less about your shared values?

Relevant Message

Lead with a personalized, simple message. Essentially, what is your charity’s “pause moment”?

  • Can you live on $1.38 per meal? Pretty compelling.

Brand Alignment

Select respected companies and people to reflect the cause in a positive light.

  • Because personal preferences (and low-hanging fruit) can be distracting, start the selection process by outlining the criteria companies and people need to meet. Essentially, you are creating a job description to keep you, your board and staff on an objective-focused path.
  • When evaluating companies and people, enlist the assistance of local marketing, media relations and media professionals in your community. These people may be able to provide additional insight on persons and companies as you finalize your list. A track record of positive media relations and clean social media is a must to keep the focus on your cause.

Easy to Participate

Create a toolkit or the like that outlines what your supporters need to know – no more, no less. Following NYC’s toolkit example you may wish to consider:

  • What are you asking me to do? What is the Food Bank NYC Challenge?
  • Why are you asking me to do this? Why take the challenge?
  • How is this cause relevant to me? Facts about Food Stamps …
  • How do I participate? How to take the challenge (DOs and DON’Ts)
  • How do I exhibit my support? Share your story …
  • Provide suggestions to ensure I have a positive experience. General suggestions.

Step-by-Step Education

Educate in layers, providing access to additional information as desired.

  • Many an impassioned organization have fallen victim to the “whole story” approach. And the spiral of words continues when they misdiagnose the lack of support as a lack of information. Under the sea of facts potential supporters are overwhelmed and current supporters are confused.
  • On the other hand, Food Bank For NYC struck an excellent balance. Their website and challenge toolkit prioritize the relevant facts and provide links to additional information. Their social communities immerse supporters in their operations and impact. Essentially, supporters can learn at their own pace.

Inspired to Network

Give supporters a way to exhibit their commitment, share their involvement and see the difference they are making.

  • Most importantly, do not use the social sphere as a way to trumpet your nonprofit organization. Remember, keep the focus on the cause and empower supporters to share.

No Pressure

Take a close look at the Food Bank NYC Challenge. Do you see them asking for money at every turn? No. Will donations increase? Yes. You are surrounded by opportunities to give, from a donation link to event attendance, but no pressure. Just make it easy, supporters will find their way. Well played folks.

Your nonprofit organization is not the destination. It’s the bridge to change.
Stay focused on the cause and others will follow.

We’d love to hear about your lessons learned and best practices for creating a cause-driven movement.

For more information regarding our approach to purpose-built brand alignment and communications, please give me a call at 919-677-9555 x11 or reach out at beverly@rmagency.com.