I’d like to thank all of you for the positive response to our Presence for Non-Profits series. It is a topic near and dear to my heart. I used to work for a non-profit, before I decided to pack up and move halfway across the country from my family and friends. I helped open and managed the Perk Center Cafe, who sought to train and employ individuals with developmental disabilities. I truly loved that job and all of our employees. So, I’m happy to be back in that headspace and to be involved in helping others.

Last week (and part of this week), I asked all of you to Ask Andy a non-profit or other marketing related question to be answered in this edition of the Benchmark 5. Some of your questions were covered during the series, like How to Start a Non-Profit. Here are the winners.

1) Heather C. asks:
As a true non-profit, our organization does not like to spend a lot of money on advertising. What are some great free or inexpensive ways to get our name out there and get the public interested in our organization?

There are several free and inexpensive ways to market your non-profit. Benchmark Email and other ESPs offer free options. For ours, all you have to do is build your email list with our list builders. That’s it! No other restrictions. Social media is another free option. Become a resource for your followers. Be entertaining and informative. Give your non-profit a personality and stick with that voice. It’s what your followers will come to appreciate you for. Content marketing is another great option. Start a blog. You don’t have to hire bloggers, either. As long as you can write from the heart and your experiences, you will resonate with your readers.

2) Kristin B. asks:
Small businesses, much like non-profits, don’t have the marketing budget that many large successful corporations do. How do non-profits and small businesses compete with a small budget and staff?

Much of what I explained in my above answer can apply here. However, I wanted to make another point. If you don’t have the marketing budget of a larger competitor, it doesn’t mean you’re down and out. It means to focus on what you’re good at and what you can control. Perhaps you’re a better writer and your blog posts and newsletters are more entertaining. Maybe you’re creative and can put together a social media campaign or YouTube video that your competitors would have never dreamed of. It could even be something that seems so simple and obvious as to be more friendly on the phones and in person. Don’t limit yourself. Know what you can do better than your competitor and continue to hone and improve upon it.

3) Chelsea S. asks:
How do those who ONLY work for a non-profit support themselves/their families?

When we first started the Perk Center Cafe, someone sat down with me and the founders and looked us right in the eye and said non-profit does not mean not for profit. The goal was to make money. It’s what is done with money that is the difference. Non-profit means an organization uses any surplus revenues to work towards its goals, rather than distributing them as profits or dividends. That means that employees, bills, etc. are taken care of and then everything else is put back into making the non-profit better and stronger. Though it may not be a salary that puts you in the penthouse suite on vacation, it is possible to make a living working for a non-profit organization.

4) Robert T. asks:
When our ministry (non-profit) goes to a venue and Wi-Fi is not available, is there a way we can still collect subscriber information on Benchmark and then “upload” all the data once back at the office?

There are a plenty of ways to collect lists offline. With the Benchmark Email iPhone and iPad (3G) apps, you can build your lists directly from the device. You can also have a computer available on site for a person to fill in their email and import the .xls, .csv or .txt files to a new list. There’s also old fashioned paper and pencil and typing them in one by one. It still works, though it’s probably the most time consuming option. In terms of newer technology, you can post a sign with a QR code and have potential subscribers scan the code and follow steps on their mobile phone. I’ve also seen places that ask you to text a number with their email address to subscribe.

5) Edie C. asks:
Is there a certain type of annual fundraising event you would suggest or should we try grants year-round (on a wing and a prayer)?

It isn’t really an either/or question as much as it is all of the above. Yes, grants may be hard to come by. Like the great Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss 100% of the shots you never take.” It doesn’t hurt to try. Edie also mentioned having a somewhat successful battle of the bands at her non-profit community-built, handicapped-accessible park and playground. If there are numbers to show a fundraising effort had some success, see where it did and didn’t. Improve upon it and grow. (For more ideas, guest blogger Amy Stephan also shared 3 tips for unconventional fundraising in her post on Tuesday.)

For the Perk Center Cafe, we held a yearly fundraising dinner. All of our employees would attend and potential donors could hear the success stories and see with their own eyes the good that we were doing. Never underestimate a feel-good story…or the power of a bit of guilt. Doesn’t your heart break a little bit every time you see those sad puppy eyes on your TV screen and hear Sarah McLachlan?

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