5 Must-Haves for Non-Profit Marketing Materials

5 Must-Haves for Non-Profit Marketing Materials

Recently, I was asked to review marketing materials (brochure, website, DVD) for a small, relatively new, non-profit foundation that is looking to raise funds to build and operate a medical center in Afghanistan with women and girls as the primary beneficiaries. To date, the organization has been funded by the physician founder and the founder’s family and friends. However, the monies raised aren’t enough to fund their mission so they are having to move toward a more active fundraising model, hence the creation of marketing materials. They could have benefited from the following essential tips.

Before the creation of ANY materials, nail these 5 must-haves FIRST:

1. The WHAT

WHAT are you doing or want to accomplish? Build a school? Provide medicine? Hone in on the core of your mission– in 1 or 2 sentences.

2. The WHY

Once the WHAT is nailed down, then WHY does the WHAT matter? Again, keep it pithy. E.g. “Because there are no medical centers for women and girls to receive medical care.”

In the creation of most products or programs, the WHY comes before the WHAT. We identify a problem and the “WHAT” is the solution. But when creating marketing materials, we often have a PRODUCT (the WHAT) and need to communicate the WHY.

3. The STORY

Now, put together the STORY. This combines the WHAT & the WHY which is the communication message to potential supporters. This is a great example of the STORY, from Note the combination of WHAT¹ & WHY²

“Every day in rural communities and poor urban centers throughout sub-Saharan Africa, hundreds of millions of people suffer from a lack of access to clean, safe water¹. Women and girls especially bear the burden of walking miles at a time to gather water from streams and ponds – full of water-borne disease that is making them and their families sick². These illnesses and the time lost to fetching water robs entire communities of their futures.  Hope is put on hold in over half of the developing world’s primary schools without access to water and sanitation. But it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Every single marketing material should now communicate the WHAT, WHY and STORY so that the message is consistent and cohesive. And every piece should include an ASK.

4. The ASK

What do you want people to do? If you want a donation. Ask for it. Volunteers? Engagement? Whatever it is, have the mechanisms in place to immediately capitalize on their interest. And make sure it is as easy as the click of a button. Your response rate will be greater which will increase your success rate.

If it’s money you seek– provide donation amounts ($15, $20, $50, $100, etc) and translate the value. For example, “Your $20 gift will provide life-saving medicine to more than 200 women & children for 2 months.” If you have a 501c3, make sure you include this information on all your marketing materials and also on the THANK YOU receipt to the donor.

Looking for volunteers? Get clear about what you want and realistic about what they can do.

Want engagement? Non-profits can benefit greatly by using (but not over-using) social media tools to share information and to fundraise, so make sure your Facebook,, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, etc share icons are prominent on your website. Update your pages and/or tweet frequently, but don’t over-share. Only post when you have something to say.

Note: Your website, Facebook, Twitter, etc should have already addressed the first 3 tips before engaging social media.

5. Get EYES-ON

Enlist the help of others before you spend a cent. It’s important to have people not affiliated with your program whose POV you respect to review and critique your materials. You’ll likely get more questions, criticisms and opinions than you want or expected, but that’s a good problem to have because it will help you refine and get clear about your message.

Unfortunately, the materials I reviewed fell short of the above must-haves. The WHAT was identified, but the WHY, STORY and ASK were missing. And, they didn’t have fresh EYES-ON the materials before they were created. The good news: they actually went through the exercise of producing something, so it will be easier the next time; and they didn’t spend a lot of $ on the brochure and DVD. The website is often the easiest, quickest and least expensive asset to update (at least it should be…for more on this see…).