Is marketing a nonprofit different from any other business? According to Karen Ramchuk—The Executive Director of the Women in Need Society (WINS)—it is different. It isn’t just about marketing the best price and the best product. It’s also about marketing that WINS thrift stores support women and children living in poverty. They aren’t using the enterprise to pay their employees. All of the proceeds go into community programs. It’s about building awareness and connecting with an audience. She shares the ins and outs of marketing a nonprofit in this episode of The Content Callout.
Outline of This Episode
- [1:00] Know your audience inside and out
- [2:56] Having clear and concise brand value
- [4:13] How to craft consistent messaging
- [5:50] What is the Women in Need Society?
- [12:51] How to market as a not-for-profit
- [15:19] How WINS pivoted during COVID
- [18:55] WHY all not-for-profits need to diversify
- [22: 00] How to donate to the WINS
- [22:52] The most effective channel for your message
- [23:53] Social Media is a game-changer
- [28:20] WINS is a resource available to everyone
- [31:02] How to connect with Karen and WINS
Know your audience inside and out
Karen emphasizes that you need to know your audience inside and out and make them part of your brand. Who believes in the work you’re doing? Who is passionate about it? If they don’t have passion for your product, there’s no sense appealing to them. Know who your people are and be true on every level when you’re dealing with them.
WINS is a social enterprise that is a true hybrid between a business and a nonprofit. Karen used to work for a large retailer where she learned that it’s critical to know your core customer. Everything you do needs to resonate with them.
It’s a little different in their world because she isn’t just marketing for customers but also for donors. They’re marketing to build awareness for their organization and the work that they do. It’s a complicated mix. They have several different customer profiles to appeal to.
How to craft consistent messaging
Having an ear to the ground and feeling what’s happening with your audience is important. Karen has to know what is resonating in their community at any given time. For example, in November it’s Domestic Violence Prevention Month. It’s a key part of what they’re about, so they’ll shift their marketing at that time as their core audience shifts their focus.
Karen believes that if you walk into one of their stores and it isn’t screaming their message, then they haven’t done their job. They need to show WHY you’re donating to them and supporting them through all of their marketing. What does WINS offer for their community? What businesses and programs do they partner with? Listen to hear how they’re impacting the Calgary area.
Finding organizations that share your passion
How do you market your brand to receive brands and sponsorships for funding to get yourself going? Karen notes that whoever you’re asking for support dollars from need to care about the work you’re doing. Pitch it as straightforward and honestly as you can.
How do you find those people? It was one of the hardest things Karen had to do. There’s no magic list. You need to research organizations that have the same beliefs, missions, and values that you do. You need to talk to them and befriend them. They need to find the value in what you’re doing.
Karen has a passion for employment programming because it was life-changing for her. So she went to many nonprofit organizations that ran employment programs and asked about them. She evaluated and learned from what they shared. Some of them even shared funding opportunities.
Karen shares a valuable resource: Vibrant Communities Calgary holds sessions that bring nonprofit organizations together. Go to those sessions. You’ll find people that want to support you. How did WINS pivot during COVID? Why does Karen think every nonprofit should diversify their offerings. She shares her thoughts—so keep listening!
Find the most effective channel for your message
What is the most effective channel for their message? Karen notes that it depends on what they’re looking for. They use Instagram for marketing their stores (the MORE Store and Twice New). The local media stepped up and supported them in a massive way. It helped them to push overall WINS. Facebook is a lot of programming Callouts.
Social Media is a game-changer for not-for-profits. Karen’s first year at WINS was sticky financially, and they had to lay off their marketing department. So they didn’t have much support with social media, and it was detrimental to them.
They didn’t have much of a presence at all. Karen was focused on trying to keep the organization financially viable. So they’d get a summer student to do some social media here and there. They tried volunteers and front-line staff. But Karen admits none of that is really as good as having a dedicated marketing professional on staff.
As soon as they had the financial means, they brought marketing back. It’s helped them get the word out about WINS. Brand awareness happens on more than one level. If you’re going to launch something, everyone needs to get the message out. To learn more about WINS and how to donate, listen to the whole episode!
Resources & People Mentioned
- Calgary Flames Foundation and Travis Hamonic
- West Coast Kids
- The Calgary Food Bank
- IKEA Canada
- United Way Calgary
- The Mustard Seed
- Vibrant Communities Calgary
- The Canadian Women’s Foundation
- Twice New by WINS
- The Women in Need Society MORE Stores
Connect with Karen Ramchuk
- The Women in Need Society (Calgary)