The following is an excerpt from,  Rethink your nonprofit marketing efforts, by Mike Knutson on his blog ReimagineRural.Com

Mike has graciously allowed a portion to be re-posted here and I wanted to share the section that speaks to the needs of small to medium size nonprofits.  I highly recommend reading the full article and thanking Mike for his efforts.

5 Ways to Jazz Up your Marketing Efforts

First, and most importantly, write down your goals and then match them to your marketing efforts. Goals will vary, but might include: fundraising, promoting organizational events, or building general awareness of your organization to name a few.  If your goals are written down you can use it to examine your marketing efforts and ask the question:  “Are the marketing strategies I’m spending time and money on helping me achieve our goals?” This is the start of a marketing plan, which doesn’t have to be complicated.  In fact, I have always advocated the simpler the better.  Just writing down your goals is a huge first step.

Second, get online with a blog… it’ll be better than a website. Everyone knows how important it is for non-profits to build relationships.  Large non-profits often seek to hobnob with finance bankers and philanthropists, while small non-profits probably look more to the average citizen in their community; like the retired carpenter who can volunteer a little time for a construction project.

Regardless of whom your nonprofit targets for relationship building, blogs are a great place to start because they make it so easy to share stories about your non-profit’s work. I think this is particularly important in rural areas where distance makes communications more difficult.

But I can hear it already; “We don’t even have a website.  Don’t tell me about a blog!”  I understand.  But you need to understand that blogs are generally inexpensive and easy enough to use that most non-techies can manage them.

Perhaps the key to nonprofit blogging is to get personal and let others know what you are passionate about.  Even if your goal is to promote your organization’s events, you can make it personal, so that readers get a feel for you as well as the organization.  And if you post regularly – that might mean once a day, once a week, or once a month – people will be more likely to come back to your site and stay connected to what you are doing.

Third, think of Facebook as a place to create a sense of community. Just over a year ago, I would have frowned on any recommendation for a non-profit in a small, rural community to create a Facebook Page because I didn’t see many older rural residents using Facebook.  That’s changed dramatically with Baby Boomers making up the fastest growing segment of Facebook users.

Many non-profits have looked to Facebook as a fundraising tool, choosing to develop a strategy around a Facebook “fundraising” application. These tools make it easy for people to donate online. That’s great for some organizations that have an emotional cause that transcends geography and reaches a wide audience.  Most non-profits in our small, rural communities, however, are probably focusing fundraising on a smaller group of people who already have a connection to the community.

Instead of asking for donations online, think about how you can use Facebook as a place where people can chat about how your organization is making a difference.  “Make meaning before money” is a common phrase used to describe online marketing efforts today, and it definitely applies to small non-profits using Facebook.

When thinking about Facebook, you should also consider the following two recommendations.  First, chose either a Facebook page or a blog.  I say that only because most small non-profits don’t have time for both.  (But if you do chose Facebook, make sure you have a link to your Facebook page on your website.)  Second, think of your goals before deciding if and how you are going to use Facebook.  Although I suspect you can find a way to use Facebook effectively to meet most any goal, only you can decide that.

Fourth, use YouTube to showcase projects you are working on. Just the other day, I learned of how the Anaheim Ballet has been using videos to showcase their students practice and performances.  What a great way for interested parties to see what their work is about.  There’s nothing fancy about their efforts, and they are definitely not trying to create a viral video, which can be daunting. It reminded me of the efforts of Café au Play, a nonprofit seeking to create a third place coffee house with a place for children.  (I wrote about them about a year ago, and embedded their video below.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJb6jgy5xH4&feature=player_embedded]

My guess is that most small non-profit can rustle up a volunteer who enjoys doing a little video production.

Fifth, get online and learn what others are doing and what the experts recommend. What I’ve identified above is just a starting list.  I tried to keep it short because I understand what it’s like to serve on small town non-profit boards, and I know you don’t have the resources to do everything.

Although I understand life in small rural communities better than most, there are people out there who focus solely on non-profit marketing, and they share some of their knowledge for free.  You need to turn to these experts for inspiration. Often what they talk about applies more to large non-profits for whom they hope to consult.  But I think innovative small town residents should filter through what they say to find new ideas that can be done by their non-profit.

Some of these experts include:

There’s no doubt that the economy will create challenges for non-profit organizations, regardless of size.  But I hope that the non-profits in our small rural communities will do a better job of creating marketing plans and begin to embrace social media.  There’s something in it for everyone.

Mike Knutson believes small, rural communities need to “Reimagine” their futures.  On a blog titled “ReImagine Rural” he and others attempt to inspire rural residents to look at the futures of their communities differently and to base their community development efforts on innovative, transformative ideas.  As a former teacher, small business manager, and economic development coordinator, all in rural communities, Knutson hopes that rural residents will join in the conversation.

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