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Posted by Sarah Brown on 24 Feb '12

Why charities should value marketing

I am supposed to be running a training course on marketing for VAS in Sheffield on the 8th March but it may be cancelled because there aren’t enough people who have booked.  And as I sit on a delayed train coming back from London where I am currently acting as marketing and communications director on an interim basis for a large third sector organisation I find myself asking why don’t charities value marketing. And also find myself feeling sad and a little frustrated.

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I think charities may feel that marketing is for business after all charities don’t have to sell!! I find it hard to believe in this environment that anyone could believe this so I’m writing this blog to start the debate – why don’t charities take marketing seriously?

No business I have ever come across thinks that it doesn’t need marketing yet I frequently find myself having to justify why marketing is necessary in the voluntary and community sector and even in social enterprises. Some reasons I have heard are that:, all we need to do is network and meet the right people; we need fund raising not marketing; there is so much demand we don’t need to promote ourselves; we’ve got a website and do social media isn’t that all we need; and we don’t advertise.

And I think that last one is the nub of the problem because people (not only in the third sector) equate marketing with advertising and promotion and for me that is only a very small part of it. For me marketing is making your charity or social enterprise the organisation of choice that your council or the government consults, the one everyone trusts to perform, the one people donate to and sponsor and want their business associated with, the one that is always coming up with great ideas and new ways of addressing needs, the one that wins contracts, and funds. For me that is what marketing can do for you because it can firstly help you clarify who you really are as an organisation and then work out how you let me and others know about you. That might include networking, it might include ads but it will only work if you are saying consistent things, acting consistently across the organisation and letting people know you exist.

If you really think your charity does important work that can change the world at least for the people you work with then it is your duty to market it as effectively as you can so others understand how important it is so that in tough times like this your charity survives and thrives. The train has now started moving again so I’ll stop writing and phone Bob to say I’m nearly home and hope that maybe someone reading this might book for the course or give me a ring to talk about marketing. I’m passionate about changing the world and I really want to understand how I can get charities to value marketing – do let me know why you think it’s not valued.