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Although it is still controversial, Marketing has been gradually accepted as a core tool in Non Government Organizations (NGOs) work. It can be perceived as a part of a decadent capitalist system or as an effective tool that has the potential of be used in both ways. In my opinion, it is a great tool that most of all depends on who is using it and it can greatly help NGOs to maximize their positive impact. It’s more then ever a survival tool that helps the organization to understand where it is positioned in the world of environmental and social action and how to engage with their stakeholders.

What is the role of Marketing in your NGO? 

Marketing is an important function in business. In a very simplistic definition, it involves creating awareness of a product or service, making the customer buy it, and ultimately building a brand. It’s the art of connecting the company to the customer and the customer to the product or service. And if you think about it, it is also possible (and imperative) that non-profits also apply these concepts and use them to their own benefit.

Marketing is the study and management of exchange relationships.[1][2] The American Marketing Association has defined marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Marketing Definition by Wikipedia

Marketing is a crucial tool to any type of organization, since it defines not only its face to the audience (the way how presents itself) but also helps the organization to reorganize in order to have the maximum impact with those audiences.


If you create a good Marketing Plan you will not only to attract more funds and donations, but you will also create awareness and participation of the civil society and beneficiaries. In a general sense, here the ‘product’ will be the cause or the project in hands, and the ‘customers‘ will be the several stakeholders.

In other words, you are already doing Marketing. But if you deny it, you are probably doing it wrong. If you use wisely the marketing principles, you’ll be one step closer to:

  • better spread awareness about the social cause;
  • to attract non-paid, self-motivated people that work as volunteers;
  • and to guarantee the existence of funds to carry on and improve on that project in future.

Know who you are connecting to

Understanding that NGOs are also working in a ‘market’, exposed to competition for financial support and to the need for behavioral change, will clarify that there is a need for mechanisms to improve the positive impact and also to sustain themselves. Marketing can deliver those mechanisms and help to segment the ‘market’, helping the NGOs to create a communication strategy according to each different target audience.

The point here is that you really need to know with whom you are communicating in a given moment and how to do it. There is a big difference in sending a newsletter to donors, to volunteers, or to beneficiaries. All of the have different needs and expectations from your organization and your communication should communicate with them in different ways. In fact, evidence shows that market-oriented NGOs, which better understand the target market, are the most successful ones.

To better understand what you are delivering, how it is positioned related to other NGOs (how is it different from what they are doing), to whom you are delivering, and how, when and where it should be done, it is important to learn the 7Ps of the NGO Marketing Mix and some Marketing Principles.


Obviously, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every NGO. You have to adjust your approach to fit your goals, the community you are working with and the structure of the NGO.

List of possible stakeholders in your organization

Although you need to make the characterization of the organization in order to understand which stakeholders exist and their importance, here’s a general list of them:

  • NGO members (regular members, management team, external collaborators, volunteers …);
  • Partners (institutional partners, government, …)
  • Donors (corporations, individual, …);
  • Beneficiaries / Target audience (community in general, target beneficiaries, …);
  • Influencers (those how will influence your target audience);
  • Antagonist (those with whom you might have to fight or that might have a negative impact in your goal).

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