How Marketing and Communication Strategies can help NGOs achieve Fundraising Success

Dr Saumya Arora About Dr Saumya Arora

Dr. Saumya Arora is a development professional with cross-disciplinary experience in project management, resource mobilization, donor relationship management, community mobilization and project execution at the field level. She is currently working towards building fundraising and resource mobilization capacity of community-based organizations, apart from developing functional linkages with donors across the world.

Marketing Mix for NGOs:

Marketing is a very important function in business practices. It entails making the customer aware of the proposition of a product or service, making them buy the product/ service, and ultimately building a brand. In non-profits too, the marketing principles hold good because there is requirement of funds to carry on existing functions and to build capacities for future. So, the donor is our customer here, and the cause or project is a product!

Searching for Project Ideas?
Join Premium and View Hundreds of Sample Proposals from Successful NGOs around the world. Learn more.

Research and evidence has shown that market-oriented organizations, which understand the target audience thoroughly, are the most successful ones. How would one attract a customer (a donor here) if there are no efforts made towards building a brand and a customer base? So, let us understand the applicability of marketing principles for NGOs, to understand why they need marketing and why it is necessary to realize the importance of concerted efforts and allocating resources towards it.

How can Marketing & Communications Strategies help NGOs achieve Fundraising Success

The marketing mix: 4Ps of marketing:

Marketing mix is used as a tool by the managers to design marketing plans and to achieve desired results. It comprises of 4 Ps: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. Drawing a parallel with NGOs: (Please note that here we are considering the donor a corresponding term for the customer, not a beneficiary)

Receive Funding Alerts by Country or Your Areas of Work
As a Premium Member, you can select to receive the right funding alerts according to your country or areas of work. Join Premium
  • The Product for an NGO is the cause or idea it supports or a core programme or project. We know that many NGOs work on the same cause, like child education, health, women empowerment, etc. One needs to study the models adopted by other NGOs to have a clear understanding of what differentiates them, what is the unique proposition in terms of benefit to the beneficiary or otherwise.
  • Price is the budget to be asked to the donor, the project or program cost. NGO needs to have the ability to explain what change the donation will bring about. In case of corporate donors, NGOs must project these costs as an ‘investment’, as the donor company has potential gains from this investment, like positive results for the brand, apart from the ‘Social Return on Investment’ (SROI). NGO needs to have the ability to demonstrate to the corporate donor how they can ‘do well by doing good for the society’, and use the business case to pitch for funding.
  • Promotion refers to all the methods of communication that a marketer may use to provide information to different stakeholders about the product or service. In case of NGOs, promotional and communication material including the websites, social media platforms, and also proposals play role in promotion of the cause. These days new innovative approaches are being used by non-profits for promotion of a social cause, like ‘Walkathons’ by NGOs like Seva Sahayog, Smile Foundation, and many others; ‘social media campaigns’ to increase awareness, while also gathering resources like funds and volunteers!
  • Place: The final P, the Place denotes the ease of access to the product for the consumer. For businesses, distribution channels and resources required are planned under this head. In case of development projects by NGOs, current CSR trends suggest that the corporate donors look for a project implementation site that is close and convenient to the donor to visit, monitor, or engage employees. However, the actual need on the ground is the first and foremost criterion to design a plan. 

Marketing, Segmentation and communication strategy for non-profits: Lessons from business organizations

Non-profits or non-government organizations (NGOs) form the ‘third sector’ of the society, as they are institutions and bodies which are neither governmental nor related to the business sector. They work towards addressing the social problems which remain largely unaddressed by the state and market, thus become the ‘voice’ of the citizens on various platforms.

Despite the good cause NGOs work for, there is a stranglehold of the government or state on their functions, especially their finances. This is primarily to ensure that the funds are actually being used for the genuine purposes. Even the donors keep an eye on the usage of funds. Thus spends on functions like ‘marketing’, ‘communication’ are seldom considered in line with the ‘objects’ of an NGO, considering the opportunity costs.

However, the point to note here is that NGOs are also working in a ‘market’, they are exposed to the various market related factors and externalities. They need mechanisms to sustain themselves, and many of the organizational and marketing principles hold good in case of NGOs too.

It is important to learn the fundamental business principles too, in order to understand their applicability in non-profit context. Non-profits need to reach out to donors to raise funds for their cause, build linkages and networks to sustain their functions and grow.

Here are some of the marketing principles which can help non-profits to achieve their goals, build effective and functional linkages with donors and to raise funds.


Business organizations use the ‘segmentation’ approach to understand a consumer and then offer a proposition, which can be a product or service. They also highlight how their proposition fulfills the needs of the consumer better than that of the competitors.

With the mushrooming of NGOs, it is very important to know the donor in and out, so that you can offer your project or cause as an excellent proposition to the donor and in sync with the donor’s needs and requirements.

How can Marketing & Communications Strategies help NGOs achieve Fundraising Success

For example, if you are an organization working for health, you need to map the potential donors, say corporate donors and then approach them as per their core domains. Some of the top Indian companies that spent a huge chunk of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funds on healthcare in 2015 are Reliance Industries, L & T, and Infosys, among others.

Communication strategies- a two-step process:

Business organizations focus on a segmented group- their target audience and use mass appeal or mass communication (one to all) accordingly. But in the case of NGOs, the focus of all the marketing and communication needs to be on a particular donor at a time (one to one). Thus it is crucial to:

  • Choose the donor carefully (you make an informed choice rather than agreeing to requirements of any donor),
  • Conduct a mapping and filtering exercise of the potential donors, and then
  • Approach the shortlisted ones.

The criteria for such a filtering will depend on the segmentation you will undertake, as explained above. But communication strategy for NGOs is in reality a two-stage process. The first stage involves mass communication strategy, by means of mailers, promotional campaigns, social media updates, and others. Now, for more specific requirements, the second stage will involve one-to-one involvement with the donor, with proposals, fund request appeals, timelines, and other relevant material.

Clear and single message:

Remember that a clear and single message in your communication strategy, which resonates with the core values, mission and vision of your organization, is of paramount importance for your every effort in this direction of communication. Communication strategies for NGOs will be discussed in detail in future articles.

How to work out a communication strategy for your non-profit:

Internet and social media are changing the information and communication realm as we used to know it. Communication has become faster than ever, but there is merit in ‘quality and quantity’ of communication rather than just the ‘quantity’. Communications for an organization can be for internal and external stakeholders. Here we will discuss the strategy for external stakeholders.

How can Marketing & Communications Strategies help NGOs achieve Fundraising Success

For non-profits, here are some tips to note before embarking on devising a communication strategy:

  1. Know your target audience:

Your communications must keep the target audience in mind, and must be designed accordingly.

  1. Clearly chalk out your goals:

What you want to convey to the target groups must be very clear to you first.

  1. Make the communication strategy a strategic one:

Most non-profit organizations design their communications built around fundraising. However, it is important to keep the overall strategy in mind, including the self-identity, focus on the target groups/ beneficiaries, and future plans.

  1. Make sure that your marketing and fundraising teams speak the same language:

Ensure that an amalgamation of the goals of cross-functional teams takes place, rather than teams working in silos. It is important to remember that communication and marketing go hand in hand.

  1. Ensure the message has the correct pitch:

Even if the primary objective of your communication plan is fundraising, no problem! Just ensure that it has the correct pitch for fund-raising- your message for the potential donor must clearly convey your requirements, goals and strategies!

  1. Make the best match of quantity and quality:

Know what to convey, when and how, and how frequently. Many organizations develop communication tools, but their efforts remain inadequate in dissemination, or fade away with time. Remember, the target audience needs to be reminded of your message, if you want it to be heard!

  1. Choose the medium carefully:

The medium must be chosen carefully and as per the target audience. The newer media of communication give the speed, flexibility, convenience and agility to your efforts, like websites, social media. Some of the conventional offline methods are reports, published material, brochures, etc. But they must be selected as per the target audience and context. For example, there is little use of your third-party evaluation reports on social media, which is much more suited for instant and simple messages, or campaigning. But, these reports are very important to be put on your website. Though all such reports form important communication material for a non-profit, but the ‘when’ and ‘how’ are equally important as ‘what’ to share!

Premium Compilation: Top-Notch Funding Opportunities for Social Entrepreneurs to empower their Start-ups


  1. This is very helpful. The application of marketing tools in non profit enterprises is very important. In my experience I have noted a lot of neglect of marketing and communication in NGOs. There just seems to be no clue as to what is the product, the price, the place, the promotion and other marketing elements. Commercial entities have succeeded with application of marketing. They should surely benefit NGOs. I look forward to more of these enlightening articles.

  2. Very helpful it is important to tailor make everything we do for our purposes as NGOs and for donors to take us seriously we need to be aware of the strategies that inform their choices. How is our project goal going to benefit their brand. What’s in it for them are the questions we should be asking ourselves, how is spending on us going to benefit them.

    • Avatar Dr. Saumya Arora says

      Thanks a lot for liking the article. I am glad it is of use. Exactly, ‘tailor making’ the interventions is the need of the hour, of course keeping the community as the focus is of paramount importance for NGOs, but NGOs also need to understand the donors to make the best of the available opportunities, benefit the community, and bring about social change for greater good!