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Nonprofits don’t care about marketing

Well, maybe not all of them but the results of Nancy Schwartz’s latest Nonprofit Messages Survey sure are depressing – especially for those of us who are trying to service the marketing needs of organizations without becoming a nonprofit ourselves.

The results are mind-boggling. Here are some of the highlights with what seem to be the unavoidable questions that are provoked:

84% of organizations characterize their marketing messages as difficult to remember.
So, why are they using them? Is it just me or do others find it unbelievable that organizations admit to such ineptitude?

76% of organizations feel that their messages connect with target audiences only somewhat or not at all.
Is it possible that this many organizations would admit that they are relatively unable to communicate with stakeholders?

When asked what is “the single greatest barrier to developing more effective messages” 28% said it was a low priority or that they were too busy with other tasks.
Let me make sure I got that right. For almost one in three organizations, communicating effectively is a low priority?

In response to the same question, an additional 27% of organizations said they don’t know the process or lack expertise in developing appropriate messages.
But if you already are prepared to admit that your marketing messages are difficult to remember or don’t connect, don’t you think that you might find out something about how to change them? The online world is overflowing with free marketing advice for nonprofits. For a tiny investment there are resources that are imminently affordable (look at for example). There are tomes of books that have been written about nonprofit marketing. Ignorance is not an excuse.

What’s more astounding is that these are people that bothered to take the survey in the first place. And they could only have found about the survey if they were subscribed to Nancy’s Getting Attention blog or had enough interest in marketing to begin with.

The seemingly inescapable conclusion is that while many (most?) nonprofits know that marketing and communications are vital to the success of any organization, they are just not doing enough about it – by their own admission.

All of this seems to be living proof of a point made by Dan Pallotta in an insightful but controversial blog post. In it, he said,

 “I see people who wear the debilitating lack of resources in their organization like a badge of honor, despite the fact that the deficiency undermines their ability to impact the community problem they are working on. I see people moving from one nonprofit to another, from one cause to another, seemingly more addicted to “the struggle” than passionate about solving any particular social ill.”

In 2012, it’s time for all nonprofits, regardless of size, to abandon the nobility of the struggle that Dan refers to and develop or acquire the expertise to at least be competent in the ways in which they communicate. We’re not talking about viral videos or award winning campaigns. The bar set by the survey is unbelievably low. We’re talking about connecting with target audiences or creating messages that can be remembered. Nonprofits should be able to figure out a way to do that.

Either that or they just don’t care.

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