The National Volunteering Conference is a bi-annual event that brings volunteer involving organisations together to exchange knowledge and build capacity.
We have had an ongoing association with the conference and were back this year to deliver our plenary session on re-defining marketing. Many not-for-profit organisations view marketing as a series of discreet tactics, resulting in questionable outcomes that achieve little in terms of organisational goals and direction.
The tactics based approach to marketing is often the consequence of many not-for-profit organisations not maintaining dedicated marketing roles, or by not viewing marketing beyond the outputs of communications, sponsorship, fundraising, branding or membership.
Marketing enables an organisation to build its capacity. Business/organisational plans identify what you want to achieve, a marketing plan lets you answer how it will be realised. I often ask participants to highlight whether they have a business plan, followed by whether they have a marketing plan. On average, two third of participants will typically have a business plan, but less than a third will say the same about a marketing plan.
Unfortunately, these figures have only shifted incrementally between each conference, demonstrating that strategic insight needs to be developed within the sector.
Funding uncertainty has had a significant impact on the sector, reverberating through the national peak, Volunteering Australia and the respective stake peaks, as well as individual volunteer resource centres and volunteer involving organisations. It is the role of marketing to position the sector (and its constituent organisations) to demonstrate its impact and purpose.
Fragmentation is an ongoing issue for not-for-profit organisations, with the sector unable to influence and advocate with a collective voice. The commercial world recognises the importance of sector voices, with competitors often working together for the collective value of the industry. A similar approach needs to be adopted for volunteer involving organisations, and the not-for-profit sector more broadly, to build capacity and capabilities.
Not-for-profit organisations need to re-define marketing to develop a strategic perspective, that measures marketing performances and defines marketing governance. The current approach of ad-hoc tactics, is not sustainable and is failing to deliver an ongoing impact with key stakeholders.