Ep 38: What the Heck is Marketing Anyway? (with Sarah Durham)

by Joan Garry

Marketing, done right, is central to all aspects of a nonprofit organization, from raising money to attracting the best people to enabling programs…


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For lots of folks, the term “marketing” conjures up images of shady salesmen trying to convince their targets to buy things they don’t need.

For others, marketing is “something we’ll do once we have enough money.”

On today’s podcast, my guest Sarah Durham explains why this is entirely the wrong way to look at it. Sarah prefers the word “communications” over “marketing” (and she tells us why.) She explains how nonprofit communications isn’t about a cute logo or getting your name in the press. It’s about getting effective marketing from companies like Third Digital Media who employ solid SEO professionals. You need experts, people who make it their specialty to know how to identify and reach your clients. It’s okay not to do it all in-house; most importantly, it is never too early to start effectively marketing your nonprofit.

Communications, done right, is an indispensable tool for any nonprofit. It’s central to all aspects of an organization, from raising money to attracting the best people to enabling programs.

Narrative. Money. People. Programs… well that’s 4 of my 5 pillars of a thriving nonprofit right there! (The other is strategy.)

Sarah is a terrific communicator and that comes through loud and clear during my interview. She helps nonprofits be more effective through branding, positioning, and by treating communications as a “utility” – just like your electricity.

She has a ton of experience to share that will really help you and your organization.

About Sarah Durham

Sarah Durham is the founder and CEO of Big Duck, a communications firm that helps nonprofits increase their visibility, raise money, and achieve their missions.

She is also the author of Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money through Smart Communications. She has been cited by NPR, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Guidestar, and many more.

Sarah is a sought-after speaker on a broad range of nonprofit communications topics and, in 2010, was named one of the most influential women in technology by Fast Company. Sarah is an adjunct professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School at NYU and is the Vice Chair of the National Brain Tumor Society’s board of directors. She is extremely experienced in all aspects of nonprofit work and an expert in communications.

In this episode:

  • The 3 essential ingredients to maximize communications as a strategic tool
  • How communications can “light up” your organization
  • Why (and how) you should connect your internal and external communications
  • What do terms like brand, voice, authenticity, positioning, marketing, or communications really mean?
  • The 3 reasons nonprofits need effective communications
  • What communications looks like when it’s working; and when it’s not
  • How to use personas to define your organization and your audience
  • The big communications mistake most nonprofits make
  • The 5 communications success factors

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