You are on page 1of 16

Integrated Marketing Communications

for Local Nonprofit Organizations:

Developing an Integrated Marketing
Communications Strategy
Teri Kline Henley

SUMMARY. Discusses the importance of integrated marketing communications for nonprofit organizations and how to get started on developing a
plan including issues to address and writing objectives. Also included are
strategies for writing a marketing communications plan including a prototype
for such a document. Sidebars are included in the article on writing objectives
and a mission statement. An explanation of a successful campaign and an organizational audit are additional sidebars. [Article copies available for a fee from
The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-342-9678. E-mail address:
<> Website: <> 2001 by
The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.]

KEYWORDS. Nonprofit communications, nonprofit marketing, marketing communications planning, organizational mission

Teri Kline Henley, MBA, is Shawn M. Donnelley Professor of Nonprofit Communications, Loyola University New Orleans and serves as Director, Donnelley Center
for Nonprofit Communications, Loyola University New Orleans, Box 201, 6363 St.
Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118 (E-mail:
[Haworth co-indexing entry note]: Integrated Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations: Developing an Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy. Henley, Teri Kline. Co-published
simultaneously in Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing (Best Business Books, an imprint of The
Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 9, No. 1/2, 2001, pp. 141-155; and: Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit
Organizations: Targets and Tools (ed: Donald R. Self, Walter W. Wymer, Jr., and Teri Kline Henley) Best
Business Books, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2001, pp. 141-155. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800-342-9678, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00
p.m. (EST). E-mail address:].

2001 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.



Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations


Why cant you sell brotherhood like you sell soap? was the classic question by G.D. Wiebe in 1952 in a professional public relations journal. His answer: Marketers of soap usually were effective, while marketers of social
causes were usually inept. This may have been the case 50 years ago, but nonprofit organizations have come a long way since that classic statement.
Some of the best integrated communications today come from nonprofit organizations. For years Smokey Bear has been telling us that only you can prevent forest fires. A couple of crash test dummies expound on the importance of
wearing seatbelts, and a dog that sounds amazingly like Columbo, the detective, tells us to take a bite out of crime. In addition to the public service announcements for these campaigns, there is an integrated campaign behind each
that includes various audiences such as school children, neighborhood organizations and special interest groups. Another example of a successful national
campaign is the United Ways partnership with the National Football League.
Not only does the partnership provide national visibility during weekly televised games and even in the Super Bowl, but the players are involved in their
local United Way chapters and garner additional media coverage on a local
and regional basis for the organization.
McGruff Takes a Bite out of Crime for 20 years
McGruff, the crime dog has been encouraging individuals to get involved in
crime prevention on a local level for more than 20 years. It started out as a dog
sending a generic message to all age groups through public service announcements. As the campaign evolved, research found that McGruff and his message particularly affected kids. By 1987, 99 percent of children recognized
McGruff and his slogan Take a Bite out of Crime. Messages from McGruff
have now expanded to include themes on bicycle safety, calling 9-1-1 in an
emergency, keeping homes secure, staying away from alcohol and drugs, being street smart, and stopping violence at home school and with friends.
The McGruff costume remains a popular way for the character to interact
with the community. Local organizations can purchase or rent the costume. In
addition, numerous promotional items are available for purchase by local crime
prevention organizations including magnets, stickers, star-badges, luggage tags,
t-shirts and coloring books. Not only can McGruffs message be heard in small
towns and big cities throughout the United States, but he can also be heard as far
away as Chile, England, New Zealand and elsewhere throughout the world. The
National Crime Prevention Council, the nonprofit organization sponsoring
McGruff, has taken the character to a new website, Children
can write letters to McGruff and get immediate advice on how to handle bullies,
being home alone or peer pressure to be in a gang.

Integrated Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations


The McGruff campaign has also enlisted the participation of corporate

partners which have helped conduct successful crime prevention programs. Its earliest partner, the Southland Corporation, set out to help reduce crime in its 7-eleven stores by applying principles of crime prevention
in its store design. Crime was reduced by 55% in just 6 years. Other corporate partners over the years include:


Texize Division of Dow Chemicals, which sponsored an emergency

phone book for kids
Motorola, which funded a Kit for Caring Communities targeted to teachers, law enforcement officers and community volunteers
Radio Shack, which sponsors satellite broadcast training
Allstate, which supports the Internet site

McGruff started out as simply a public service campaign to teach individuals they can make a difference in the crime problem. Twenty years later, the
character is still around in the form of an integrated communications campaign reaching children, teens and adults throughout the world. The media
and the tools may have changed, but the message remains the same in the
successful programs. You too can Take a Bite out of Crime.

(Excerpted from Catalyst, Changing Our Communities Through Crime Prevention, Vol. 20 No. 1, February 2000, The National Crime Prevention Council,
1000 Connecticut Avenue, Washington D.C. 20036.)

In todays tight, competitive economic climate, nonprofits are just as concerned, and often as savvy, as their for-profit counterparts (Gallager & Weinberg, 1991). The challenge to communicating the organizations message is a
tough one. Unlike a tangible product where there is often one key customer
group, a single key benefit and the ultimate goal of making a profit, nonprofit
organizations can be much more complex. They usually have multiple non-financial objectives, which can often be difficult to measure. In addition, the potentially conflicting needs of multiple constituencies, including clients, board
members and donors must be balanced. Nonprofit organizations must achieve
their objectives while confined by limited resources, which provides a particular challenge to be creative while striving for cost-efficiency. Increasing media
outlets and ever-upgraded technology, while providing new opportunities, can
strain the resources of any nonprofit organization.
Every nonprofit organization faces different challengesbut each needs to
get its message to its target audiences in the most effective and efficient manner. Many local nonprofit organizations are doing it all with a small to non-existent staff or with volunteers only.


Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations


The temptation in developing a Marketing Communications Plan for any
organization is to jump right in and start implementing strategies and media
choices without strategically defining objectives. Often time seems to be of the
essence, or a media opportunity appears and there is a desire to take advantage
of it immediately. Without objectives and strategic planning, there is a danger
that communications will be fragmented and reactionary rather than integrated
and synergistic. The advantages of a coordinated media effort are especially
important to nonprofit organizations trying to make the most of limited resources.
At a minimum, the following issues need to be explored before embarking
on any marketing communications program for a nonprofit organization. (For
additional discussion of these topics, see Strategic Communications for Nonprofit Organizations by Janel M. Radtke.)
Relationship to Audience
Organizations generally have several constituencies for publics, both internal and external. Internal groups might include clients, donors and members,
to name a few. External publics may include potential clients/donors/members, the media, the community-at-large and foundations that help fund the organizations. These relationships can more easily be shown using an updated
application of the classic Circle of Publics (Cody & Routzahn, 1947). Figure
1 is an illustration of internal and external publics for a university.
Additionally, different types of organizations have varied levels of importance to audience members. Self, Kline and Coleman (1988) developed a classification system for one type of nonprofit organization, the Mutual Benefit
Association, which helps to define the issue of relationship to the organization.
A Mutual Benefit Association is defined as an organization (generally nonprofit) organized to create benefits for its members (Kotler 1975). These types of
organizations have varied levels of involvement and commitment (see Table 1).
Intimate/Stranger: Members tend to be more intimately involved with Personal organizations such as causes they feel passionate about or groups that focus on fellowship (such as a local church or a neighborhood association). These
types of organizations permeate many areas of a members existence, and therefore members have a stronger perceived relationship to the organization.
Personal/Professional: Similarly, there is a distinction between how members relate to organizations that involve personal aspects of their lives such as
religion or hobbies and those that are professional in nature. It is important to
make the distinction. While a member may be willing to be involved in activi-

Integrated Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations






High Personal Participation

Personal Selling
Informal Communications



Low Personal Participation
Formal Communications

Adapted from A Social Psychological Classification System for Mutual Benefit Associations by Self, Kline
and Coleman, Journal of Professional Services Marketing, 1988.

ties on nights and weekends for a personal organization, he or she may limit
those activities of professional organizations primarily during work times to
the extent possible.
Choice/Imposed: Many Social and Cultural organizations have members
who become affiliated by birth, their jobs or some other non-choice decision.


Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations

For example, the AARP boast a huge membershipanyone over the age of 50 is
eligible to join. It is a large lobbying group, but few members have an intimate
relationship with the organization. Most join for the discounts they receive as a
member rather than for a personal involvement with the organization.
The typology suggested above addresses only mutual benefit associations,
however the implications are applicable to a wide variety of organizations. The
more connected a person feels to an organization, the more open he or she may
be to communications from and participation in the organization. Marketing
communications has two goals in terms of understanding a persons relationship to the organization. First, find out the persons current level of awareness
and commitment and suggest appropriate communications and activities that
are congruent with that level of relationship. Second, identify ways in which a
person may be moved to a closer, more passionate relationship with the nonprofit organization.
Audience Responsiveness
Once the relationship level is determined, it is important to understand that
responsiveness to an organization and its message is not consistent at all times,
places and situations. The goal of the marketing communications plan is to
find the optimum opportunity to communicate the message.


When: Some messages may be better received at certain times of the day
and on certain days. Persons contacted by their local church for a pledge
or to serve on a committee may be more likely to respond favorably when
contacted on Sunday.
What: The appeal used in the message varies greatly depending on the
audience, and it is necessary to understand whether a humorous message
is more effective than a fear appeal. This is in large part a function of the
psychographics of the audience.
Where: The typical consumer may receive over 2,000 commercial messages every day. Some situations better lend themselves to receiving
messages than others. A message that is completely appropriate in the
home environment may not be acceptable at work. While it may be appropriate for a professional organization to contact a member or potential
member during the workday, it may be inappropriate for a local homeless
shelter to call for a donation at a place of work. The goal of the marketing
communications plan is to make sure that the message reaches the audience at the optimum location. This is a function of the media placement
and timing of the message.
Who: Every audience has influencers who impact the message. The
United Way has long used Communicators in the workplace who ask

Integrated Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations


for the donation and follow-up to encourage participation. The personal

request can be an effective way to encourage participation, especially if
the Communicator is well known and respected. Who brings the message
is often as important as when and where the message is communicated.
Message Control
The more directly a message is conveyed from source to receiver, the less
likely there will be distortion of the message. It is important to determine
whether the organization can communicate directly with its constituencies or
whether it will have to rely on intermediaries such as the media, volunteers or
opinion leaders. The larger the audience, the more likely the message will have
to be carried by others. When the general public or community is involved, the
mass media is nearly always an essential information gatekeeper.
The means by which the marketing communications will be implemented
helps determine the type of strategies that will be effective.


Immediacy of message: If the message to be communicated is timely, it

is necessary to select media such as newspapers, radio or the Internet that
provide time efficient communications.
Time of staff/volunteers: It is also necessary to realistically determine how
much staff/volunteer time and energy can be devoted to a project. There is
a cost/benefit relationship to all of the strategies that can be implemented.
Expertise: Depending on the organization, the skills and knowledge to
carry out a strategy may or may not be available. It may initially seem expensive to hire a professional, such as a website designer or a professional media consultant. If the expertise is not available within the
organization, it may become necessary and in the long run is more cost
efficient than training an existing organization member to learn the necessary skills.

Before embarking on the development of a marketing plan, it is important to
determine a budget of what the organization can realistically spend and then
creatively determine ways to stretch the budget.

In-kind donations: Printing, design work and even merchandise may be

readily available where financial donations are not and can often be
found through formal or informal surveys of members and supporters.



Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations

Interns: Interns or part-time employees from a local university can be utilized as a low-cost or free service.
Necessity for economy: Most nonprofit organizations have limited resources, and it is important to explore ways to get more bang for the

Once the issues of relationship, responsiveness, message control, gatekeepers and cost have realistically been assessed, it is time to set objectives for the
Marketing Communications Plan. Objectives are what the organization wants
to do and should include several considerations.
Outgrowth of Mission
Before embarking on any Marketing Communications program, the organization must have a defined mission. According to Herron, every nonprofit organization should state its mission and its benefit to the public with succinct
clarity. Some organizations find that the first step in writing objectives for the
plan is to rewrite the mission statement. Planning Marketing Communications
based on the organizations mission keeps the plan focused. There are many
strategies that simply dont help fulfill the mission of the organization. Steer
clear of these by staying mission-focused.
Specific and Measurable
Objectives should state what is to be accomplished in definite and measurable
language so as to ultimately determine whether or not the objective was met.
Writing Specific and Measurable Objectives
OBJECTIVE: Tell people about the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Problems: Tell whom specifically? What message? How many people?
A BETTER OBJECTIVE: Increase awareness of the Little Sisters of the Poor among potential donors by 30% in six months.


The objective states that the communication will generate awareness (versus changing peoples opinion or asking for a donation).
The objective states that the audience is composed of potential donors.
The objective states an increase of 30% and gives a time limit of 6 months.

Integrated Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations


Because an organization has multiple objectives, it is often necessary to utilize a system to identify the priority of each. To reach one objective resources
may have to be allocated almost extensively to the exclusion of others. It is
necessary to determine which objectives are essential to meet, which are desirable but not essential and which have a much lower priority. Using a method to
prioritize objectives will reduce disagreement and dissention when objectives
come in conflict.
Each objective should indicate the person or persons responsible for achieving the goal. A board and or professional staff runs most nonprofit organizations. It is advantageous to outline both the Board responsibility and the staff
responsibility so that there is no confusion.
When setting objectives it is easy to become overly optimistic. While objectives should encourage the organization to stretch its achievement, unrealistic
objectives can be a hindrance to the achievement of the overall plan.
It is essential that a Marketing Communications Plan be a written document
for several reasons.
Requires Organization
The very process of compiling the necessary research and organizational information is a useful exercise in planning. It helps ensure that all areas are covered in the process of developing the campaign and that no steps are overlooked.
Facilitates Board Approval
Because nonprofit organizations function under the direction of a Board of
Directors, a written document helps organize the plan so that everyone is
aware of exactly what the Board is deciding to accomplish.
Serves As a Useful Resource
Typically more than one person will be charged with the task of executing
the various elements of the Marketing Communications Plan. The written doc-


Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations

ument serves as a working instrument and checklist of what the organization

has decided to do. It can be given to staff, volunteers and even used to show potential donors that the organization is active.
Becomes a Permanent Record
One characteristic of any organization, but especially nonprofits, is that
members and volunteers change over time. The organizational memory can
be lost without a permanent record of accomplishments. A written Marketing
Communications Plan provides a record of the objectives and strategies the organization hopes to accomplish. It can be referred to each year (or other planning period) to see what was proposed, accomplished and what worked or did
not work.
Executive Summary or Introduction
A one page summary of the plan including target markets, message strategy
and main media choices.
Mission/Brief Organizational Profile
Includes the formal mission of the organization as well as any relevant history. If the organization has a vision statement, this could be included as well.
It may be useful to include relevant history or background, but keep it brief.
Mission Statement Checklist
Every organization needs a succinct way to state why the organization exists and what it
hopes to achieve. A good mission statement:


Points to the future

Inspires commitment and support
Is achievable
Is easy to understand
Is motivational and convincing
Uses proactive language (uses verbs)
Is memorable

Situation Analysis
A research-based, objective look at the internal and external environment in
which the organization is operating. Resist the urge to make this section a com-

Integrated Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations


pilation of all of the information that is available. Focus on the information relevant to the Marketing Communications Plan.


Environmental Analysis: It is important to look at all of the factors in the

external environment as they affect the organization. These include, but
are not limited to, governmental and legal influences, technology, society and cultural trends, resources and other relevant issues.
Internal (members, donors, clients)
External (media, public, agencies, foundations)
Organizational Analysis: These are the internal factors affecting the organization. This can best be covered by conducting an Organizational
Self-Evaluation. The goal of this section is to look objectively at the organization and its product, positioning, price, location and communication methods.

Organizational Self Evaluation

The following outline is helpful in compiling the Marketing Communications Plan. It may be
useful to have all or part of it completed by various members of the organizations constituencies, including staff, board members, donors and clients. By doing so, it helps to identify
where there are inconsistencies in understanding the organization. Communication strategies can then be developed to help rectify the inconsistencies and make sure the organization is communicating an integrated and consistent message to all groups it serves.


Official Name of the Organization

Other names the organization is known by
Who are you? (Your organizations mission statement)
Who do you want to be? (Your organizations vision statement)
Marketing AuditThe infamous Marketing Ps; 4 Ps + 3 more!
What is it that you do for your customers?
Location? Accessibility?
Is there a fee, dues, etc.? What value is there for what you provide?
How do you get our message out? Include samples!
What makes you unique?
Where are you in the mind of your customers, relative to your competition?
Who are your customers/constituencies/publics?


Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations

Are government/regulatory agencies important? If so, who specifically?
6. Promotional Audit
For each of the following please indicate if you have used the tool, would use it again
or are opposed to using.
Have used

Direct Mail
Web Site
Television Ads/PSAs
Radio Ads/PSAs
Billboards/Transit Ads
Special Events
Talk Shows
News Releases
Press Conferences
Yellow Page Ads
Promotional Items/


Would use again

Opposed to using

No opinion




7. Additional Questions:

How would you describe the attitude of the organizations board towards marketing
and integrated communications?



EnthusiasticLets Go!
Guarded but optimisticIf it all seems feasible, well consider it.
Uneducated but willing to give it a tryHavent a cluemaybe.
Dead set against itNot a chance

How much budget is available for an Integrated Communications Plan

Minimum Budget


Realistic Budget


Stretch Budget


What is your time frame/deadline for implementation?

Who will be the primary contact on this project?
Who else needs to be involved?
Who has the final say-so on either GO or NO-GO?

2001 Shawn M. Donnelley Center for Nonprofit Communications, Loyola University New Orleans.

Integrated Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations


Competitiongroups that compete for relevant constituencies. They do

not necessarily need to be organizations that do the same thingalthough
they may be. By exploring the competition, it is possible to look at what
they are doing well, as well as learn from their mistakes.

Primary Research
It may become evident that there is not enough information currently available about the above-listed areas. If so, it may be necessary to conduct surveys,
focus groups or in-depth interviews to uncover information. Include information on the methodology, findings and application to the Marketing Communications problem. If the research is extensive, it is permissible to include only a
summary in the body of the plan and include complete statistics in an appendix
at the end of the plan.
SWOT Analysis
After completing the Situation Analysis and any primary research, it is
helpful to organize the information into an analysis of strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities and threats. This step provides a summary chart that becomes a
useful tool in the strategic planning process.


Strengths/Weaknesses: Internal factors, both positive and negative,

which the organization can control or change. This would include the
service offered, pricing strategies, locations where the programs are offered, communications strategies employed, etc.
Opportunities/Threats: External factors, both positive and negative that
will affect the organization and how it operates. These may include, but
are not limited to, governmental and legal trends, technology, competitors and societal/community trends.

This is a list of all objectives of the campaign, including their prioritization.
A Marketing Communications Plan needs to have a constant tone in both its
words and visuals. A simple description of the strategy will keep everyone
synergistically on the project. It should include a discussion of how the organization will be positioned and how its image will be portrayed. This section
should state any specific graphic mandatories such as use of specific colors,


Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations

slogans or logos. It should also show samples of what any ads or visual components will look like, including the copy.
The strategies selected are described, along with a rationale and necessary
implementation information such as specifications for placement and cost.
Possible strategies used will include advertising (paid and public service), direct/interactive marketing, public relations and publicity, sales promotion and
personal selling.
Budget Summary
The budget summary includes a single summary of the costs of the plan. If
the costs exceed the organization budget, this section may also include pertinent information on how the strategies selected will offset the expenses (for
example fundraising events and galas).
Implementation/Action Plans
A Time/Action Calendar and flow charts giving the details of the plan
should be included in this section listing who will be responsible for implementation of each portion of the plan.
What techniques will be used to determine if goals are met and to help for
future planning should be explained.
Appendices include lengthy primary research results or materials such as
sample news releases.
A listing of all secondary (library and Internet) sources used in particularly
in the Situation Analysis is useful for substantiation or for later research.
It would appear that brotherhood can be sold like soap and it takes the
same planning process to sell an intangible idea or service as it does to sell a
more conventional packaged good. In fact it may be more difficult to sell the

Integrated Marketing Communications for Local Nonprofit Organizations


nonprofit organization and its idea. For that very reason, the importance of using strong marketing and communications principles is magnified. A solid
Marketing Communications Plan is the foundation for a successful Marketing
Communications by any organization.
Cody, H.B. & Routzahn, M.S. (1947). How to Interpret Social Welfare. New York:
Russell Sage Foundation.
Gallager, K. & Weinberg, C.B. (1991). Coping with success: new challenge for nonprofit marketing. Sloan Management Review, v 33, n 1, 27-42.
Kotler, P. (1975). Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice Hall, Inc.
Herron, D.B. (1997). Marketing Nonprofit Programs and Services: Proven Practical
Strategies to Get More Customers, Members, and Donors. San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass, Inc.
National Crime Prevention Council (2000, February). Catalyst-Changing Our Communities Through Crime Prevention. v 20, n 1, 1-20.
National Football League and United Way Partnership,
nfl.cfm#top, March 3, 2001.
Radtke, J.M. (1998). Strategic Communications for Nonprofit Organizations: Seven
Steps to Creating a Successful Plan. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Self, D.R., Kline, T. & Coleman, N. (1988). A Social-Psychological Classification
System for Mutual Benefit Associations, Journal of Professional Services Marketing, v 3, (3/4), 39-57.
Wiebe, G.D. (1952). Merchandising Commodities and Citizenship on Television, Public Relations Quarterly, Winter Issue.