I know many fundraisers dislike the word “marketing.”  Too bad because ALL of your messages are marketing in one form or another.  Even those that go for the “sale” (i.e., fundraising by “asking” for a donation).

I believe it’s important for you to accept and understand this.  Specifically: How much revenue your raise for your nonprofit starts with your first contact with prospects . . . it starts with marketing.

Put another way: Marketing is a revenue source – or stream – for your nonprofit.  In the words of Seth Godin, “Everything you do is marketing.”  (Live chat with the Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2009)

Where exactly are you doing all this marketing?

– Every single page, word and graphic on your website

– Every phone conversation with a donor

– Every special event you host and all the promotion leading up to it

– Every email you send

– Every direct mail letter or postcard

– Every effort to “raise awareness

– Every comment, article and feature you have on Facebook

– Every video, tweet, press release, etc.

– Every conversation you have with a friend or stranger about your job

– And on it goes whether you ask for a donation or not . . . everything you do is marketing which is integral to your fundraising.  Yes, even cultivation.

I say again, it’s all marketing.  And depending on how well you do it, you either help or hinder fundraising.

You’ll help more than you hinder IF you accept the vital role marketing plays in your fundraising.

Consider a Fundraising Cycle such as this:

Awareness … Engagement … Prospect Identified (in your database) … Cultivation … Donor (they send in a gift; or become a volunteer) … Cultivation … Second Gift … Engagement … Upgrade … Cultivation … Etc.

Can you see how even messages that don’t directly ask for a donation still impact your fundraising?  This is marketing.

You might say, “Nope.  We go straight for the gift.  We send out an acquisition letter and ask for a gift.  No marketing for us.”

Buzzzzzzz.  Wrong answer.  That acquisition letter you send is full of marketing.  It needs to capture, engage, raise awareness, cultivate and fundraise all in one swoop.  Plus, a LARGE percentage of your prospects will first go online to your website (and/or possibly 3rd party research online), to check out your nonprofit.  More marketing.  Then they decide to donate by mail.

After sending you their first gift, donors receive still more marketing material from you: A thank-you letter, welcome package, cultivation messages, more appeal letters, and so forth.

Are you starting to realize that everything you do is marketing . . . and all your marketing is the core of your fundraising success?  Marketing and fundraising are one in the same.

Why do I believe it’s so important for you to agree to this?  Because once you accept it you next persuade your Board of Directors that fundraising starts with marketing.  Persuade them so they’re less likely to cut the budget of a revenue source – marketing and communications – the life blood of your nonprofit.

UPDATE 10-4-11: Few more related posts on this subject …

Boost nonprofit marketing with direct response copywriting fundamentals

Fundamentals still apply to fundraising and its marketing

We’re all marketers now – post on The Agitator