There are a lot of things people get wrong about Marketing – what it is, it’s purpose, how to apply it, and especially when. These gaps in basic understanding can seriously hinder how one’s offers are received by the public, which we can sensibly conclude also affects the health and longevity of any organization.

This may especially be true of small organizations, and even more so, small nonprofit organizations – where Marketing may be considered a cultural mismatch and is, ironically, low priority compared to more community-focused efforts (More on this incongruity, below).

Consider this post a continuation of the ideas, values, and approaches that I brought up in my “Revifesto” presentation (video). Please read and enjoy!


50 Things Small Nonprofits Don’t Know About Marketing — that’d kill ya


  1. That dirty word, Marketing, is really just another way of saying Audience Development.
  2. Weak audience development means empty houses.
  3. Which means little impact.
  4. Which means you aren’t fulfilling your mission.
  5. Which means you won’t be an attractive project to fund.
  6. Which means your budget might shrink.
  7. Which means shaky sustainability.
  8. Which means maybe bye-bye.
  9. Conversations about programs that don’t also include a meaningful marketing (a.k.a. audience development) plan are riddled with problems just waiting to happen. See 1 through 8.
  10. Marketing is the direct line between patrons and programs.
  11. As such, marketing shouldn’t be an after-thought.
  12. Your patrons shouldn’t be an after-thought.
  13. Marketing is an expression of your community outreach.
  14. Marketing is critical to you accomplishing your mission.
  15. Marketing is relationship-building.
  16. Relationships that last are ones that take time.
  17. Relationships that crash and burn are ones that are rushed.
  18. Marketing plans that crash and burn are ones that are rushed.
  19. I once read in a blog that marketing shouldn’t be an after-thought.
  20. Good marketing happens all year round, not just when you’re selling something.
  21. Good marketing is how supporters know that you give a damn about them.
  22. Good marketing is how you cultivate strong community.
  23. Good marketing is how you highlight and celebrate your hard work.
  24. Good marketing is easier than you think to roll out.
  25. One of the keys to good marketing though is plenty of planning.
  26. Bad marketing is slapdash.
  27. Bad marketing is haphazard.
  28. Bad marketing is too many messages at once.
  29. Bad marketing is when don’t give enough time for your audience to familiarize themselves with your programs.
  30. Bad marketing is when you don’t give enough information for your audience to familiarize themselves with your programs.
  31. One of the reasons for bad marketing is last-minute preparation.
  32. Have I mentioned? Marketing shouldn’t be an after-thought.
  33. Did you know you have an aversion to marketing?
  34. Did you know you have an aversion to marketing simply because it’s called marketing?
  35. Did you know the negative image you have of marketing is a bunch of sleazebags trying to sell people on an idea?
  36. Did you know that when you market hastily and clumsily just to fill your program, that program you should have been marketing much earlier, you risk looking like a sleazebag trying to sell people on an idea?
  37. Did you know that would be very contradictory?
  38. Marketing is not evil.
  39. Marketing is essentially an extension of meaningful dialogue with your devotees.
  40. It’s possible that marketers should market marketing differently. Maybe call it, oh I don’t know, welcoming the public to your work. Because that’s what it is.
  41. If you care about your fan base, you will market to them.
  42. Marketing is an area of expertise.
  43. Not everyone is a natural marketer.
  44. But everyone can learn to become an effective marketer.
  45. You can do so by heeding the advice of an effective marketer.
  46. Contrary to some misconceptions, effective marketers don’t execute a barrage of marketing tricks. It isn’t magic.
  47. Rather, it is a selection of appropriate actions.
  48. Performed in the appropriate sequence.
  49. With the appropriate amount of thoughtful preparation.
  50. Seriously though, patron relations, community outreach, I mean Marketing… It shouldn’t be an after-thought.


I hope no organization has to suffer the fate of thinly supported programs. Especially when it doesn’t have to; i.e. when the work is amazing yet the marketing is not.

The change we’re looking for here is not to make marketing better in itself but to make the perception of marketing better! So that it may become a greater and ongoing staff-wide priority. No more half-stepping, piecemeal efforts, and last-minute overexertion.

Please pass this on and let’s get this right once and for all. Click the share buttons below!