When it comes to the world of strategy—be it organizational, fundraising or marketing—positioning is often left out of the conversation altogether.
That’s a mistake.
Without understanding your position in the marketplace and in the eyes of your constituents, it proves difficult to provide them with the right messaging. This is especially the case if the way your team views your organization is different from the way your target audience does.
What is positioning?
And we know what you’re thinking: “What in the world is positioning? We are wrapped up with marketing and fundraising and doing outreach to our donors and potential donors, so what is this new positioning thing?”
That’s where Firespring comes in. For the last two decades we’ve been helping nonprofits just like yours find their unique position in the market and thrive.
April Dunford, author of the fantastic positioning book “Obviously Awesome,” explains it like this: “Positioning defines how our product is different and better than alternatives for a particular set of customers. Strong positioning is the foundation of great marketing and sales and is the starting point for a company’s messaging, branding, lead generation and sales strategy.”
While Dunford is using the terms “customers” and “products,” it still holds true for nonprofits. It’s essential to know how your mission, your solutions and what results you create are different and better than alternatives in your community.
Knowing this information will allow you to connect with your audience on a greater level, giving you the building blocks for communication, marketing, fundraising and much more.
How do I get started positioning my nonprofit?
If you’re thinking this all sounds fantastic, but how do we get started? Then these next three steps are just for you. Positioning your nonprofit is a long-term strategy, and it’s never done. You should be working on this each year and probably even each quarter, depending on your team layout and bandwidth.
But, it’s not difficult to get started, either. Don’t overcomplicate matters within this process. Instead, bring these three questions to your next planning session with yourself, your team or even your board.
1. What are the alternatives for your target audience if your nonprofit didn’t exist?
This question can seem more difficult than it really is. If your nonprofit didn’t exist, what would your top donors, volunteers and advocates do? Would they look for another organization with the same mission as yours outside of the community or would they move to a different mission and stay in the community? We want to learn this information because by knowing it, we will start to get a more granular picture of why your constituents support you versus other nonprofits in the community.
For example, if your mission is to end child hunger in your community, and you no longer exist, would your audience find another child-hunger nonprofit in the area or in the region? Or, would they move to a different mission from an alternative nonprofit?
Ask these questions of your team and build a spreadsheet of your answers. Then, when you’re ready, feel free to call on your top advocates to ask them the same questions.
2. What role does your organization play in the lives of your target audience?
Every major and individual advocate has their own story and reasoning for donating or engaging with your cause. Maybe your mission impacts a close friend or a family member, or maybe they themselves have been impacted by your cause. Knowing this information will allow you to segment your messaging and tactics to certain audiences in your database.
An individual who has been impacted in one way or another by your mission is much different than someone who wants to better their community and feel part of something bigger. Again, this is the type of information that will allow you to build the foundation for growth in your branding, messaging and outreach efforts.
This represents another opportunity to grow your relationship with your top advocates by reaching out and asking this question.
3. What role does your nonprofit play in your market and in your community?
Lastly, we want to better understand our literal role in the community we service. Asking yourself and your team this question about the role you play in the market and in the community can lead to hours worth of discussion, and we’ve seen the results with organizations of all shapes and sizes over the globe.
“Firespring has exceeded all expectations and become a critical partner in defining and promoting our impact through clear storytelling in our campaigns, social media, donor communications and internally with staff,” said Tania Azar, Vice President of Strategic Advancement at Solutions for Change.
Positioning your nonprofit will give you what you need to define and promote your impact through storytelling in your marketing, fundraising and outreach efforts.
If you are interested in learning more about positioning your nonprofit, watch this Theory of Why video, then schedule your free 30-minute strategy session and focus entirely on positioning with your strategist.