This Is the Key to Good Nonprofit Marketing Nonprofits are hard to market, especially in today's age where consumers are focused on creating value for the self. Here's how to tap in to new consumer psychology and make your nonprofit a priority for consumers.

By Alexa Dagostino

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Adam Smith, father of modern economic theory, believed it wasn't the butcher's benevolence that provided the dinner on your plate, but from the butcher's regard for himself and self interest. Smith illustrates that wealth is a deception of happiness and virtue. The butcher made the meal not because he felt you deserved not to go hungry, but because the butcher believed that generating wealth from his craft will provide happiness for him. We are taught to chase success, and that from success, happiness is derived.

But as studies have shown, and many people have experienced, success and wealth don't equate to happiness and feeling purposeful. It is this paradox that's starting to shift consumer behavior. With this realization that happiness doesn't equate to wealth and success, consumers are driven by prosperity as much as they are driven by their emotions.

Today's consumers want to create value and purpose when spending. Because of this paradox, people are a lot more hesitant to spend money. Many consumers don't want to spend money on anything that is not a necessity or something that brings them joy. This has led to consumers dedicating more money to experiences over material items.

You would think that this focus on emotions and value when spending would drive up spending on charity. Charity is an expense that feels good when doing and undoubtedly creates value; however, this paradox has done the opposite. This is because charity is something that is "morally optional" for consumers, as explained by Peter Singer in his book, Ethics in the Real World. People believe that they can still be great humans without donating to great causes.

So with these consumer conditions in mind, how do we make your nonprofit not just an option, but a priority to consumers? As a marketer, the key is to illustrate the value and ease that donating to your nonprofit creates. Empowering the consumer to let them know their donation and its impact creates value beyond what meets the eye. Here are the top two key points in effectively marketing your nonprofit to this new generation of consumers.

Related: 3 Lessons Nonprofits Can Teach Businesses About Branding

Proximity is the key to consumers understanding value

Consumers are more likely to donate to something when it connects with them on an extremely personal level. Of course, most consumers already know donating to a charity is beneficial in more ways than one — but consumers have to feel the proximity of the cause to feel compelled to take action. If the consumer doesn't feel connected enough to the cause to give out of empathy, they will spend their money elsewhere.

To illustrate the idea of connection, Singer noted the overwhelming amount of donations given after the terrorist attack of 9/11 in comparison to charities around the world. This event touched everyone in the country at that time in some way or another, creating a sense of not only empathy, but urgency to help out and take action. Similar experiences are seen when natural disasters hit.

Another tragedy doesn't have to occur for money to be channeled to your nonprofit. The key is to highlight the proximity of your cause to your audience. Luckily for us, there are problems all around us. It is quite easy to find a problem that can be tied into what your nonprofit does. From this point, your job as a marketer is to connect the consumer to the problem, and your cause. As a nonprofit, your organization is not the solution — the consumer is.

Your company is merely a channel for the consumer's compassion and benevolence. By highlighting that the problem is in their own backyard and establishing a level of empathy, you can then empower the consumer and highlight that their donation is going to create value and solve problems right within their community.

Related: How Digital is Bridging the Gap For Nonprofits

Consumers get the "why" — erase the "why not"

Consumers understand that donating to charity is a good thing. By establishing that level of proximity and creating empathy, consumers will experience an increased level of connection to your cause, and your brand. But as mentioned before, charity is a morally optional thing for consumers. No consumer wants to feel guilted into donating to a good cause — that will not create the value and purpose they are seeking. What does create purpose is transparency.

Show the consumers how their donations create value, don't simply tell them. Using marketing strategies, highlight what your cause has already done to help others. Utilize metrics, and show that with a donation as little as a dollar, that is already changing the lives of the people you are trying to help with your cause.

Consumers get the why, but erasing that idea of why consumers should spend money elsewhere is imperative to results. Illustrating the problem is key to establishing connection, but empowering the consumers and not making them feel as if the problem is so large their donations won't help is important. The number one rule is that after viewing your nonprofit campaign, consumers should feel empowered.

Related: 5 Ways Nonprofits Can Raise More Funds in 2022


The key to marketing a nonprofit effectively is really to highlight the value. By understanding this new consumer psychology, empowering the consumer and showing (not telling) the value donations create, this establishes connection with your brand and cause. Consumers feel as if their donations are as much of value to the cause as they are to themselves. With these strategies in mind and the trajectory of consumer behavior, charity can become something that isn't morally optional, but morally obligatory.

Alexa Dagostino

Founder/CEO of Thynktank Coaching & Thynkfuel Media

Alexa Dagostino is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, marketer, business coach, consultant and investor. She helps entrepreneurs and small businesses skyrocket their business through strategy, marketing, sales, media and leadership.

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