Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg
Faith-based non-profit marketing and advertising are unique and interesting disciplines because they operate in an essentially non-competitive environment.
Undoubtedly, market share is a huge consideration in terms of making sure that the bills get paid and people get served, but rightly, no ministry wants to set themselves up as the one who points out every other ministry’s weaknesses in order to win donors. Even “best in the business” statements that focus on your virtues, however subtly, inherently come across as saying the rest are not as good. In our media and advertising saturated culture (particularly in a ministry context), people are conditioned to sniff this out and as a result, it will hurt your brand more than help it.
Of course, everyone in these organizations knows that "the pie" of donor dollars is only so big and by nature of growing your donor base, you in turn reduce the size of the remaining pie available to other ministries. But for good reason, that truth doesn't show up overtly in faith-based, non-profit advertising.
So how should you communicate?
One of the most effective methods of communicating that I've seen has come from organizations who weren't afraid to say that they don't care who the potential donor chooses to partner with, just as long as they do something about the issue at hand. I remember seeing an interview with Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, in which he said that he didn't care who people chose to support to help solve the world's water problem, he just wanted them to do something, even if that meant starting another competing non-profit focused on the water problem.
So if that's going to be your messaging, how do you hope to win donors? Three things come out of the charity: water example.
First, they communicate their passion. The fact that Harrison encouraged people to help solve the water crisis, not worrying about focusing his message on his own organization, communicated an infectious and overwhelming passion for the problem. His biggest concern isn't that you support charity: water, it's that you help solve the water problem. Ironically, that makes a lot of people want to give him their money.
Second, they actually do an amazing job of answering the need and reporting on their successes (and failures).
Third, they communicate their messaging, stories, wins and losses like few other non-profits. They set a standard of excellence in their communications that inherently sets them apart from other non-profits.
These are the keys to effective marketing and advertising in a faith-based, non-profit context.