Forgetting what’s important

Mar 29, 2009 by

Flickr photo by Valerie Everett

Flickr photo by Valerie Everett

A colleague recently sent me a link about the upcoming Social Enterprise Alliance Summit, which will be held in New Orleans this year. And of course, it reminded me that up until two months ago, I was also coordinating a conference to be held in New Orleans this spring.*

My colleague noted how interesting it is that SEA is still holding their conference and that it still seems important (or even necessary) for them to do so, despite the economic situation. All I could think was how clearly this one example illustrates the difference between nonprofits and businesses.

According to SEA’s website, a social enterprise is “An organization or venture that achieves its primary social or environmental mission using business methods.” In other words, the organization has a more altruistic purpose than most for-profit businesses, making it more like a nonprofit, but uses business methods to achieve its goals. So where do the differences lie?

Well, there are many, but in this particular instance, the one that stands out to me has to do with what will or will not get dropped from an organization’s budget when it is strapped for cash. For a nonprofit, invariably the first thing to go is professional development and travel money followed closely by marketing/PR budgets. Translation: no going to conferences, period.

As someone who used to own a business, I can say with certainty that even in the hardest times, you CANNOT drop your marketing budget. The most important thing is to get the word out about your business, let people know what you do and try to drum up new clients. For nonprofits though, who have nothing but an abundance of new clients flowing in the doors, this is less important. And it shouldn’t be.

Here’s the deal: you may not have to try and attract more clients, but you sure as hell need to attract more donors and more people that can advocate for you to their friends and connections. How is a nonprofit supposed to do that when it has locked down and shut out marketing, outreach and PR efforts entirely?

There are many ways to get your message out there cheaply and easily. Nancy Schwartz provides tons of ideas in her Getting Attention Blog as does Katya Andresen on her Nonprofit Marketing Blog. These are just two of the many, many resources nonprofits can tap to get great ideas on keeping themselves front and center in the public’s eye.

After all, if people forget you now when times are rough, why should they even try to remember you when things get better?

*Please note that this post is not intended as a criticism or condemnation of any particular organization. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Related Posts

Share This

  • Pingback: Nonprofit Blog Carnival: Open Call Edition « Nonprofit Congress Blog()

  • Was glad to see we were both listed on this month’s Nonprofit Blog carnival. Enjoyed your submission — and am grateful that you included links to Nancy and Katya’s blogs. I’ve learned a lot from their work… and now am adding you to that list!

    Jeremy Gregg, Editor
    The Raiser’s Razor

  • Jeremy – sorry for the late response, but thanks for your comment! I thought your Carnival submission was excellent as well. Keep up the good work!