What’s on the minds of NFP and social sector marketers?

Feb 15, 2022
Thought Leadership

Members of the CMA’s NFP Council recently engaged in a roundtable discussion where we shared passion points, discussed projects underway within our organizations, and highlighted areas of interest to focus on during the 2021-2022 Council term.

The conversation was comprehensive, with several familiar themes surfacing, from marketing and branding in a DEI context, to thriving (or just surviving) in our changing work environments, to the perennial question of how to measure marketing success.

We have narrowed the list down to five key areas – our top five “top-of-minds” – which emerged from our discussion. What resonates most with you? Is your organization taking on any of these challenges in 2022?

1. When to stand up, speak out, celebrate or stay silent

In a world with an increasing focus on social justice, equity and inclusion, freedom of expression and “cancel culture”, organizations are being asked by their employees and their customers to stand up and speak out on issues, and to proudly celebrate cultures and causes. But, how do we make consistent decisions around our organizations’ advocacy efforts? It’s important to determine a plan for advocacy that’s clearly aligned with our mission or business interests, and other types of advocacy or community support that aren’t as neatly aligned; for example, requests from employees and the community to respond to current events, topical issues or popular causes. When should an organization lead in its support or advocacy, and when should it follow (or not speak up at all)? We see real value in a framework that clearly articulates how to make these decisions, the factors that should be taken into consideration, and how to communicate these decisions to our customers, donors, employees, boards and other stakeholders.

2. Agility vs. the “old way” of working

In today’s work environment, it seems that everything is on fire and everything is needed now. We’re operating with a relentless and increasing rate of change and uncertainty and are developing and managing new working models in response to market forces and employee preferences. “Agile” is one of these new approaches to how we work, but agility can lead to burnout and opt-out. How can we continue to deliver at this new pace? How do we set realistic organizational priorities and balance those with individual priorities? Further, how do we do this while bracing for the switch to a hybrid working model, where we will have to manage varied work arrangements with our teams as well as with our partners?

3. Remote work and in-person relationship-building

Speaking of remote work, how can organizations who depend heavily on partnership cultivation and external-facing relationships successfully build and manage these relationships when working virtually? How will this new way of working shift job functions, roles, expectations, delivery and relationships? As a result of the pandemic and of our new ways of working, new social dynamics have also been introduced and conversations are changing. It is vital that we prepare for these changing relationships and dynamics as they move us in new directions.

4. Measuring outcomes and impact

Not surprisingly, when a group of fundraisers, educators, public servants and other social sector professionals get together to talk about measuring our marketing success, the question of how to measure outcomes and impact is top of mind. These are challenging metrics to capture. For a behaviour change campaign, how can we actually measure impact on behaviour? As we build adoption of public services, or convert new donors to our cause, how can we measure the ways that we are changing lives or experiences? Looking more broadly, as government and advocacy organizations are establishing social impact metrics, how do other organizations fit into that social impact ecosystem and how do they measure their contributions to the greater good? 

5. Competition or collaboration

There’s only so much money – and time – to go around, and NFP and social sector organizations often find themselves competing for the same donors (and their dollars) or striving to communicate messages and value propositions to similar audiences. At the same time, partnerships, whether with the private sector or with other NFP or social sector entities, can be integral to success, especially in a time of content overload, budget uncertainty and staffing pressures. When it comes to serving and engaging with stakeholders, what factors should we consider in terms of our organizations deciding to go it alone, and when does it make sense to collaborate by pooling resources, brand equity and strategy to make a shared impact?


AUTHORED BY
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Linda Hazzan

Director, Communications, Programming & Customer Engagement Toronto Public Library




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