Mission-Based Marketing: Positioning Your Not-for-Profit in an Increasingly Competitive World

Mission-Based Marketing: Positioning Your Not-for-Profit in an Increasingly Competitive World

by Peter C. Brinckerhoff

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A direct, practical guide revealing how you can lead your not-for-profit to success through mission-based marketing

Now in a Third Edition, Mission-Based Marketing is a direct, practical guide showing how you can lead your not-for-profit to success in a more competitive world. This book provides the knowledge and skills you need to build a


A direct, practical guide revealing how you can lead your not-for-profit to success through mission-based marketing

Now in a Third Edition, Mission-Based Marketing is a direct, practical guide showing how you can lead your not-for-profit to success in a more competitive world. This book provides the knowledge and skills you need to build a market-driven organization that holds onto its core values, does a better job of providing mission, and successfully competes for funding, clients, referral sources, staff, and board members.

  • Includes new material on nonprofit websites, social networking and new methods of communication, advances in technology, customer service in today's world, and the effects of marketing on fundraising
  • Goes beyond the hows and whys to include lots of hands-on advice and real-world examples
  • Other titles by Brinckerhoff: Mission-Based Management: Leading Your Not-for-Profit In the 21st Century, Faith-Based Management: Leading Organizations That Are Based on More than Just Mission, and Social Entrepreneurship: The Art of Mission-Based Venture Development

Filled with new material, this book appraises the trends that have dramatically affected the not-for-profit sector in the past several years, and explains how an organization can shape this shifting landscape to its ultimate benefit.

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Mission-Based Marketing

Positioning Your Not-for-Profit in an Increasingly Competitive World
By Peter C. Brinckerhoff

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-23718-3

Chapter One



More competition. Social entrepreneurism. A competitive environment. The free market. An open market. Market-based pricing. Managed care. These terms are now nearly ubiquitous in the literature of the not-for-profit world. But what do they mean to you, your staff, your board, and the people that your not-for-profit serves? And, more importantly, how does your organization fit, survive, and, yes, prosper in an increasingly competitive and rapid-response environment?

And then there is technology. The wired world, always online, always expecting instant answers, quick responses, cures downloaded on demand. The pace of change, the pace of expectancy (how quickly we expect things to be done) has accelerated and will continue to. How will your organization react?

Since the first edition of Mission-Based Marketing was published in 1996, so much has changed, and yet the core issues and skills of marketing for a not-for-profit have remained the same. There is more acceptance of not-for-profit advertising, and of not-for-profits using business skills to pursue their mission. There is the advance of technology. For certain things, such as printing your own marketing materials, it has reduced costs drastically; in other areas, such as maintaining aworthwhile and appealing web site, it has increased costs in time, money, and the skill set you need on staff. And, of course, there is increased competition for good staff, good volunteers, donated dollars and goods and, most importantly, for grants, contracts, and people to serve.

How do you manage an organization in a "right-now" culture, when what most not-for-profits provide is not a "right-now" solution? You don't fix the environment, or stop child abuse, or improve pre-kindergarten education, or stop homelessness, or hunger, or discrimination right now. But that doesn't mean you can't start right now, and perform your mission in a way that pays close attention to the right-now culture.

This book will show you how to react, respond, and reshape your organization into one that prospers using the best tools of twenty-first century not-for-profit management. How? By becoming market-oriented while remaining mission-based. By using the well-established and time-tested methods of marketing to do more mission. By treating everyone who interacts with your organization like valued customers. By developing a team approach to marketing, where customer satisfaction is everyone's job. By asking customers what they want and trying your best to give it to them.

In my lectures and keynotes I repeatedly contend that the skill of marketing is really a business skill translated over to mission. Many people are uncomfortable with the concept of marketing in a not-for-profit because they see marketing as no more than crass sales. Sales (crass or not, your choice) is one part of marketing, but not the whole thing by any means. And, to help you understand right away why this book, and the concept of mission-based marketing, is so important to you, let me assure you that marketing is a way of doing better mission, sooner, and in a more focused manner. Good marketing in a not-for-profit is good mission, and I'll show you how to do it.

In this initial chapter, we will look at why your world is "going competitive" and what the linkage is between competition and marketing. We'll look at who I have written this book for (the target market) and what the benefits are of reading the book, and of investing your time with me. Finally, I'll give you a brief preview of each of the remaining chapters of the book so that you will know what the sequence of our time together will be like.

There is little if any rocket science in the following pages. But there are scores of solid, practical ideas on how to bring your organization into a competitive frame of mind that will keep it in business in the twenty-first century. In the chapters that follow, you will learn why marketing is so fundamental to your mission and how successful mission-based organizations are simultaneously market-driven. You will view a marketing cycle and see how it can be adapted to your organization and your mission. You will learn how to identify and keep close to your customers, and how to identify and keep tabs on your competitors. You will see how technology has made marketing easier, cheaper, and much more challenging all at the same time. We'll walk through the key elements of incredible customer service and show you applications for your customers.

Marketing is not a discrete event with a beginning and an end. It is a continuing process, a cycle that becomes a discipline, part of your culture. To develop that culture may take months or even years in your organization, or it may be a very short journey. It will depend on your staff, your board, your funders, and your community, but most importantly on you, the reader. You will be the one who will have the tools to help the others cross the bridge from your current position to being mission-based and market-driven. It's a lot of work, but well worth it for your organization, your community, and the people you serve.


Throughout the not-for-profit community, the tide is has been changing for the past decade. And, like tides, the changes at first are barely noticeable, and more evident on some parts of the shoreline than others. But once the tide changes, the momentum is reversed and the outcome is irreversible. The forces at play are too big, too powerful, too global to resist.

In the not-for profit world, the tide has changed and the trend is inexorably, irreversibly moving toward competition, toward freer markets, and away from monopolies and restricted markets. Governments, particularly at the state and local levels, have discovered that competition works in the not-for-profit world, and that freeing up this part of the economy produces lower cost and better services just like in other sectors. And, like other transitions from a restricted market to a free market, it always produces a market shakeout: some organizations don't survive because they cannot adjust and compete. Will your organization be a competitor or a footnote in history?

I need to digress here for a moment. At the same time (1960-1990) that we were spending trillions of dollars fighting and ultimately winning the Cold War to keep the world safe for democracy and capitalism (or was it capitalism and democracy?), we prevented our not-for-profit sector from benefiting from the open market. We had one of each kind of human services or arts entity in each community and kept others out by not funding them.

For Example: Look at how we name our not-for-profits: The Adams County Mental Health Center, Springfield Chamber Orchestra, Denver Association of Retarded Citizens, Sacramento Animal Shelter. In our very names, we declare a geographic monopoly for these groups and local donors, and then the United Ways and other funding entities keep out competition under the excuse of "duplication of service."

When you think about it, this is not only incredible, it's also very patronizing and demeaning to the not-for-profits' staff and boards. It says, "We know you are nice folks, but you aren't very good managers and so you can't play by the same rules we do (the free market). But we need your services, so we'll protect you."

In fact, in all of the major not-for-profit arenas-the arts, research, the environment, human services, education, religion, and associations-only three areas are completely unfettered by this shackle of restricted markets: religion, private (usually higher) education, and associations. We see the best example of diverse organizations meeting the diverse needs of the population connected with places of worship. With no restrictions on size, location, theology, or services, religion has become a truly diversified "industry," with an order and denomination (or "flavor" as my minister puts it) for everyone. Churches, temples, synogogues, and mosques are free to compete, and many choices have evolved, but not in the arts or in most human services, where most of the government money is spent. These groups are protected, and at a high price. And the good news (for some) and the bad news (for others) is the same: this protection is eroding as governments, stuck in a perpetual budget crunch, try to find new methods of paying for the increasing demand for social and educational services.

Part of this evolution has shown up in the outsourcing or privatizing of traditional government services, such as prisons or even public schools. As that action has become more and more accepted, funders have taken another look at how they currently fund the original "outsourcers," not-for-profit groups. The funders have realized that they can get more for less by allowing competition to enter previously sacrosanct areas and, as long as their standards for quality are high, that it should be a win-win-win situation.

For Example: In Texas, the entire Welfare-to-Work initiative was taken away from government and their not-for-profit subcontractors and awarded (on a competitive bid) to Lockheed Martin, over a huge hue and cry that a for-profit would not be sympathetic. After the first three years of the project, the customers (the people going from welfare to work) were hugely satisfied with the program and the services they received. In Massachusetts, providers of services to adults with disabilities used to get calls from the state saying, "We are going to send you George (or Nancy or Bob)" as a client. Just because the organization was there, as long as they did satisfactory work, they got more people to care for. Not any more. Since 1995 the organizations must bid against other not-for-profit providers to demonstrate both their service and financial competitiveness to "receive" the client. In Indiana, for-profit providers of residential services are required to bid against not-for-profits.

For Example: The federal government, long a bastion of continuing contracts, is now bidding more and more work, particularly in the human service area. They are looking more at outcomes than at process, and are allowing for-profits and not-for-profits to bid on work that used to be set aside solely for not-for-profits.

For Example: Ask any development officer of any organization whether the fund-raising arena is more or less competitive, more or less outcome-based, more or less driven by the needs and wants of the funder. Their answer will be a resounding "YES!" I recently saw an article that noted that the ratio of corporate dollars applied for to those granted went from 1,500:1 in 1985 to 13,000:1 in 1995, and over 25,000:1 in 1999. Certainly the foundation staff that I know are deluged with applications from types of organizations that they had not even heard of five years ago.

This trend, from a taxpayer's view, and a donor's view, is good. We get more services, often of better quality, usually for less money. But from the viewpoint of your not-for-profit, how does it look? Scary? Exciting? Dangerous? Like an opportunity?

Probably some of each. If your organization is not market-driven, not ready for competition, probably the danger and fear are predominant. Hopefully, by reading this book and applying the ideas and techniques you will find here, you can turn the adversity into opportunity, and improve your organization's mission capability. And here's a note of optimism. You are already competing, and doing it successfully in some arenas. You probably just haven't noticed, or been willing to admit it! More on that in the coming chapters as well.


This book is written for the management and board members of not-for-profit organizations of all types. Whether your organization is in human services, environmental protection, the arts, education, religion, or an association, this book has something for you.

Your organization needs to be more market-oriented and, for many entities, that requires a culture change. Such changes are initiated only at the board and senior management level. And, changes of such importance need to be coached consistently over time to take hold. They need to be coached by those same board members and senior staff.

But, such cultural change will not be successful unless everyone in the culture adopts the new ideas, the new philosophy. As you will read over and over, marketing and competition are team sports, and when one person doesn't play well the entire team loses. Thus it is essential that the key ideas in this book be transmitted to the entire team. As a former staff member, executive director, and board member of local, state, and national not-for-profits, I try to provide ideas for all levels of your organization, not just for the executive director, or solely for the board. I believe that a strong marketing effort is put forth by a team-one of line staff, senior management, boards, and volunteers-since the more people that can see the ideas here, the easier and faster it will be to implement them.

The book is designed to give you practical advice on how to move your organization as an entire team toward a market-based philosophy. To help you, I have included dozens of real-world examples (which can be found by looking for the " For Example" tag), and specific applications for you to apply, in some cases, the same day you read them (which can be found by looking for the "* Hands-On" tag). At the end of each chapter, there is also a list of "Discussion Questions" that focus on the key points of the chapter. These questions are intended to help you generate discussion about the important issues raised in the book, and to provide a team forum to help you decide which ideas you can use right away, which will take some time, and which may not be appropriate for your organization.

NOTE: There is also another tool available for you to help implement the ideas in this book: The Mission-Based Marketing Workbook and CD-ROM, which is available from John Wiley & Sons. The workbook is full of self-assessments, checklists, and action ideas for you to use as you work to realize your organizational marketing ambitions.


By buying and reading this book, I know that you are making an investment of time and money. So what are the benefits of that investment? What will accrue to your organization? I guarantee that you will get at least the following benefits from this book:

An understanding of why marketing is so crucial to being a mission-based organization.


Excerpted from Mission-Based Marketing by Peter C. Brinckerhoff Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

PETER C. BRINCKERHOFF is an internationally renowned trainer, author, and consultant to nonprofit organizations. He brings years of experience in the field to his work, as he is a former board member of local, state, and national not-for-profits, and has worked on the staff and as executive director of two regional not-for-profits. Since founding his consulting firm, Corporate Alternatives, in 1982, Mr. Brinckerhoff has helped thousands of organizations become more mission-capable. He is the author of eight books on nonprofit management, including three that have won the Terry McAdam Book Award for Best Nonprofit Book of the Year. Mr. Brinckerhoff's titles include the workbook associated with this book, Mission-Based Marketing Workbook, Second Edition, as well as Mission-Based Management, Third Edition; Mission-Based Management Workbook, Second Edition; Social Entrepreneurship; and Faith-Based Management, all published by Wiley.

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