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Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA Module #7: Designing and Marketing Your Programs

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

Much of this program is based on materials adapted from the Nonprofit Capacity Building Toolkit(SM). Much of the content of this module was adapted from the guidebook,Field Guide to Nonprofit Program Design, Marketing and Evaluation.

This module is in the nonprofit organization development program. However, this module can also be used by anyone as a self-study exercise to learn more about designing a marketing nonprofit programs.

Sections of This Module Include the Following

Materials for Review
Suggested Topics for Reflection and Discussion
Activities to Build Systems and Practices
Tracking Open Action Items


The three major sections of personnel in nonprofits are usually governance (the board of directors), central administration or general operations (executive director, central offices, etc.), and programs. Nonprofit organizations usually manage their products and services (to clients) in the form of programs. Program services to clients are the primary reason that the nonprofit exists. Therefore, it's critical to know how to plan and market programs.

There is often a great deal of misunderstanding about marketing. People often consider marketing to be the same as advertising. It's not. Advertising is only one part of marketing. Marketing is the wide range of activities involved in making sure that you're continuing to meet the needs of your clients and getting value in return.

Market analysis includes finding out what groups of clients (or markets) exist, what their needs are, what groups of clients you prefer to serve (target markets), what products or services you might develop to meet their needs, how the clients prefer to use the products and services, what your competitors are doing, what pricing you should use and how you should distribute products and services to clients. Results of this marketing analysis indicates the position, or market "niche", for the nonprofit to work from -- and to be seen as having. Marketing also includes ongoing promotions, which can include advertising, public relations, sales and customer service. Various methods of market research are used to find out information about markets, target markets and their needs, competitors, market trends, customer satisfaction with products and services, etc.

NOTE ABOUT THE LARGE SIZE OF THIS MODULE: This module is one of the largest in the program. The activity of marketing an organization and its programs is critical to the success of the organization and its programs -- the marketing process is broad and sometimes quite detailed. Learners who have very limited time schedules might proceed through this module primarily by reviewing the learning materials and then thinking about how they would carry out (rather than actually carrying out) the various activities to build structures in their organization.

NOTE ABOUT USE OF TERM "SERVICES": Marketing is in regard to organizations, and their products and services. Nonprofit organizations exist largely to provide services to the community. Services can be provided by providing services -- also by providing products (or tangible services) to clients. In this document, products and services are referred to by use of the term "services".

NOTE ABOUT BOARD COMMITTEES: Consider establishing a Programs Committee or Marketing Committee to review and help guide implementation of the information in this learning module. Major activities and goals from this learning module could be incorporated in that Committee's Committee Work Plan.


  1. Understand Program Design
  2. Construct a Program Logic Model
  3. Clarify Program Outcomes, Goals and Strategies
  4. Conduct Basic Market Analysis for Each Program
  5. Draft Your Public and Media Relations Plan
  6. Draft Your Sales Plan
  7. Draft Your Advertising and Promotions Plan
  8. Organize Your Marketing and Promotions Plan
  9. Evaluate Your Program Planning Practices


  • The following materials will help you address each of the topics and learning activities in this module.

Program Design, Marketing and Promotions

NOTE: The following link is to a sizable document. The learner might be better off time-wise to do a quick read of the guide, and then deepen and enrich the learning in the following section of this module, "Activities to Build Systems and Practices". That section guides the learner through the process of designing a program (including its logic model) and then marketing and promoting the program (including marketing the organization). The activities in this section might reinforce the learning in the following extensive guide if the learner regularly refers to the guide while completing the activities to build systems and practices.

Basic Guidelines for Nonprofit Program Design and Marketing

Marketing Basics, Analysis and Positioning

- - - What Programs Are, What They Are Not

Marketing -- particularly the sections:
- - - Marketing (the introduction "Marketing" -- A Commonly Misunderstood Term")
- - - Basics of Market Planning (read first 7 articles about doing a marketing plan)
- - - Market Research -- particularly the sections:
- - - - - - Basic Methods to Get Feedback from Customers (read all)
- - - - - - Some Major Sources of Market Research Information (read all)
- - - Competitive Analysis (read introduction at top of page)
- - - - - - Direct and Indirect Competition - Definitions
- - - - - - What is Competitive Intelligence?
- - - Pricing (read introduction at top of page)
- - - Naming and Branding (read introduction at top of page)
- - - Intellectual Property (read introduction at top of page)
- - - Positioning (read introduction at top of page)

Advertising and Promotions

Basics and Planning (read introduction)
- - - Major Methods of Advertising and Promotion (read all)

Public and Media Relations

Public and Media Relations, particularly the sections:
Managing Media Relations (at least 4 articles)


What is Sales?
Understanding the Sales Process

Optional -- Customer Service

Customer Service (read at least 4 articles in "Basics and Planning")


  • Learners are strongly encouraged to discuss the following questions with peers, board members, management and staff, as appropriate.

Basics of Program Design

The Basic Guide to Nonprofit Program Design and Marketing includes answers to the following questions.

1. What is a nonprofit program?

2. Describe program inputs? Processes? Outputs? Outcomes?

3. Why should program planning be closely aligned with strategic planning?

4. Who should be involved in program planning?

Basics of Marketing

1. Define marketing. Advertising. Promotions. Public relations. Publicity. Sales. In your definitions, include how these terms are similar and different. (See What's Advertising, Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations and Publicity, and Sales?)

2. What is inbound marketing? Outbound marketing? (See Marketing (the introduction "Marketing" -- A Commonly Misunderstood Term".)

3. What is market analysis? (See Basics of Marketing -- introduction.)

4. What is market research? (See Market Research -- introduction.)

Basics of Marketing Analysis and Positioning

1. What is a target market? How does one define a target market? (See Marketing (the introduction "Marketing" -- A Commonly Misunderstood Term".)

2. What is a competitor analysis? (See Competitive Intelligence -- introduction.)

3. What should be considered when setting the price for a product or service? (See Marketing Pricing -- introduction.)

4. What should be considered when naming a product or service? (See Naming and Branding -- introduction.)

5. What is intellectual property? (See Intellectual Property -- introduction.)

6. What is a positioning statement? (See Positioning -- introduction.)

Public and Media Relations

1. What is public relations? (See What's Advertising, Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations and Publicity, and Sales? and Managing Your Public Image.)

2. Name at least three practices in maintaining strong public relations. (See Managing Your Image (Public Relations).)

3. What is media relations? (See What's Advertising, Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations and Publicity, and Sales? and Managing Media Relations.)

4. Name at least three practices in maintaining strong media relations. (See Managing Media Relations.)


1. What is sales? (See What's Advertising, Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations and Publicity, and Sales? and What is Sales?.)

2. What are some basic steps in the sales process? (See Understanding the Sales Process.)

Customer Service

1. What are some basic steps in the maintaining high-quality customer service? (See Customer Service.)


Designing the Strategic Structure of Each of Your Programs

The structural design is the "skeleton" on which the nonprofit program is designed. Nonprofit management can reference this structure when planning program resources and budgets, staffing and operational procedures to provide services to clients.

The "skeleton" is comprised of the program goals, strategies and objectives, which should follow directly from the goals, strategies and objectives produced during strategic planning. (Therefore, learners in the program can design their programs by using many of the results from the previous strategic planning module.) The program goals are selected in order to accomplish certain benefits, or outcomes, for clients.

The goals, outcomes, strategies and objectives are a major portion of the program plan. This plan usually also includes description of resources needed to achieve the goals and objectives, and the funding necessary to obtain and use the resources. Required resources usually includes human resources, which are often described in terms of necessary skills and capabilities. The necessary funding is often depicted in the form of a program budget.

Program strategies are usually carefully described in the form of descriptions of methods to deliver services to clients.

1. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Program Structural Design., list the goals for the program. Each program should be intended to achieve at least one of the strategic goals, and may achieve more.

2. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Program Structural Design., under each goal, list the outcome that the goal is geared to achieve for clients. Program goals are intended to accomplish certain benefits, or outcomes, for clients. List the outcomes intended from the program. Note that outcomes are not always directly associated with a specific goal, but may be accomplished across several goals.

3. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Program Structural Design., under each goal, list the strategies needed to achieve the goal. Program strategies are the major methods that are intended to be used to achieve the goals of the program. Often there are a set of strategies for each goal. However, strategies may combine to accomplish several goals. Program strategies often become major methods for delivering services to clients.

4. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Program Structural Design., under each strategy, list the objectives along the way to achieving the goal and implementing the strategy. Next to each objective, list who is responsible to achieve the objective and by when.

Updating Logic Models of Your Organization and Each Program

1. In the learning module "Starting and Understanding Your Nonprofit", learners designed a very basic logic model of their nonprofit organization. Logic models depict the overall flow of the major parts of an organization or program to produce desired results for clients. Now that the learner has completed the strategic planning process, then he or she is likely to have much more specificity about the organization and its programs, including program goals, inputs, processes (strategies), outputs and outcomes. Therefore, return to your logic models for your organization and each program. Update the models to reflect what you've learned during strategic planning. (For assistance, see Guidelines and Framework for Designing Basic Logic Model.)

Writing Your Marketing Plan for Each Program or Service

NOTE: This Plan should be focused on a particular program (product or service), because each has its own different description, features and benefits, customers, competitors and pricing.

Describe Your Service

1. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, write a description of the service. The description should be written as if your clients are the readers. In the description, include the specific groups of clients served by the service, nature of the method(s) in the service, outcomes for clients and any other benefits to them, and where they should go next if they are interested in using the service. Be careful to describe the services in terms of benefits to clients, not to you. For example, address pricing, convenience, location, quality, service, atmosphere, etc.

List Your Target Market(s)

2. In the table in Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, write a brief description of the major groups of clients who will benefit from your service and the major benefits to them. Remember that the overall goals of the organization very much determine whom you want to serve. For example, strategic goals might be to expand the number of clients you have now, get new clients, get more revenue from current clients, etc. You may want to develop new services in a current or new market, or expand current services in a current or new market.

Understanding your program's target markets makes it much easier for you to ensure that your program remains highly effective. In addition to helping focus the results and evaluation of your services, understanding your target markets helps you to focus on where to promote your services, including advertising, conducting public relations campaigns and selling your services. If you've done a good job so far of strategic planning, then identifying the primary targets market should be fairly straightforward. However, it is very useful to determine several additional target markets. These additional markets are often where you should focus promotions and mean additional sources of assistance and revenue. (If you struggle to identify your target markets, the following links might help you, including How to Identify a Target Market and Prepare a Customer Profile and Marketing Research.)

Write a Profile of Each Target Market

3. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, write a description of each of your target markets. The more you know about your clients, the better you might be at serving them. Consider, for example, their major needs, how they prefer to have their needs met, where they are and where they prefer to have their needs met and demographics information (their age ranges, family arrangement, education levels, income levels, typical occupations, major interested, etc).

Analysis of Competitors

4. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, write results from your analysis of your competitors. Yes, nonprofits do have competitors -- competitors to provide services and competitors to obtain funding. Consider the following questions: Who are your competitors? What client needs are you competing to meet? What are the similarities and differences between their service and yours? What are the strengths and weaknesses of their service? How do their prices compare to yours? How are they doing overall? How do you plan to compete, for example, offer better quality services, lower prices, more support, easier access to services etc? (For assistance, see Competitive Analysis.)

Analysis of Collaborators

5. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, write results from your analysis of potential collaborators. Who are potential collaborators with your nonprofit? What client needs might you collaborate to meet? What resources might they bring and what could you bring? What could you do next to cultivate collaboration with other agencies? (For assistance, see Organizational Alliances.)

Pricing Analysis

6. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, write results from your pricing analysis. Several major factors influence the pricing for a service. Strategic goals greatly influence pricing. For example, the values of the nonprofit might be to serve as many people as possible, including by not charging for fees or by charging very low prices. Or, for example, if the nonprofit really wants to get into a new market, then it might charge lower than usual prices in order to generate more clients who buy the service. The nonprofit might consider changing pricing if the demand for its services are very high or low. Competitor pricing also has a great effect. If competitors are charging much less, then the nonprofit might do well to lower prices. Similarly, if the competitor is charging much more, then the nonprofit might consider increasing its own prices. (For assistance, see Pricing.)

Write Your Sales Plan

7. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, fill in the sales plan. Regarding your sales planning, consider: What target markets will be approached? What should be your sales method for each target market, for example, who will make initial contacts to generate leads, do follow-ups to initial contacts, make presentations and close sales? How much do you expect to accomplish in sales (consider terms of outputs, such as dollars made, clients recruited, or other units of service). (For assistance, see Understanding the Sales Process..)

Write Your Advertising and Promotions Plan

8. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, fill in the advertising and promotions plan. The plan includes what target markets you want to reach, what features and benefits you want to convey to each of them, what methods and media you will use to convey it to them, who is responsible to implement the methods and how much money is budgeted for this effort. The plan includes plans for a promotional campaign, including an advertising calendar and media plan. The goals of the plans should depend very much on the overall goals and strategies of the organization, and the results of the marketing analysis, including the positioning statement.

When selecting methods, consider what communications methods and media will be most effective in reaching target markets (groups of clients) and when. What are their preferences for media and when do they use them? (The link Basic Methods to Get Feedback from Customers might be helpful now.) Consider, for example, radio, newsletters, classifieds, displays/signs, posters, word of mouth, press releases, direct mail, special events, brochures, neighborhood newsletters, etc. What media is most practical for you to use in terms of access and affordability? (The link Major Methods of Advertising and Promotion might be helpful now.)

(For additional assistance, see Advertising and Promotion .)

Conduct Your Customer Service Planning

9. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, fill in the customer service plan. When considering how you will ensure strong services to clients, consider: Are clients very satisfied with your services? How do you know? If not, what can you do to improve customer service? How can you do that? What policies and procedures are needed to ensure strong customer service. Include training in your considerations, including to develop skills in interpersonal relations, such as questioning, listening, handling difficult people, handling interpersonal conflicts, negotiating. (For assistance, see Customer Service, Basic Methods to Get Feedback from Customers, Questioning, Listening, Handling Interpersonal Conflict, Handling Difficult People and Negotiating.)

Conduct Your Production Planning

10. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, fill in section about production planning. Note that the development and implementation of various production methods do not have to be addressed in detail in a marketing plan -- these topics are usually included in the operations or management planning for the program. However, production should be generally considered during the marketing analysis to ensure the eventual detailed production planning takes into consideration the needs of target markets and having their needs met on time. Consider: What resources do you need to build, reproduce and provide the service? How do you know? Will you have sufficient resources into the near future? How do you know?

Conduct Your Distribution Planning

11. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions Plan, fill in section about distribution planning. Matters of distribution of service can be critical for a nonprofit, especially if they are providing critically needed services to specific groups of clients. For example, low-income clients may not be able to afford transportation to other areas to receive your services.

Carefully consider: What distribution channels should you consider, for example, should clients come to your facility, you visit their offices, can you provide services over the telephone, etc? What resources are needed to bring together your services and your target markets? What major steps need to occur to accomplish these distribution channels? (The link Distribution may help you.)

Note that detailed planning about developing and maintaining distribution channels is often included in the operations or management plans, rather than in the marketing plan. However, the marketing analysis should focus on selecting the methods of distribution that best meet the needs of target markets and the nonprofit.

Designing Your Program Budgets

Update Program Budgets from Your Operating Budget

1. Design a budget for each of your programs. If you completed Module 6: Developing Your Strategic Plan, then you already have started basic budgets for each of your programs. Update those budgets with results from completing this module on program design and marketing. Consider expenses of advertising and promotions, production, distribution and customer service. Also consider any updates to expected revenues as a result of any changes in your pricing policy and as a result of your sales goals in your sales plan.


1. 7 Ways to Evaluate Your Marketing Programs

2. How Do You Evaluate a Marketing Plan?

3. Evaluating Advertising and Promotions Efforts

4. Evaluating Sales Efforts


Reminders About You

1. Are you exchanging feedback with others about what you're learning in this program? If not, you really should be thinking a lot more seriously about this -- adults learn by doing something with new information and then exchanging feedback about it.

2. Are you sticking to your study schedule for this program?

3. Are you practicing your basic skills in management and leadership, including in problem solving and decision making, planning and meeting management?

4. Are you communicating throughout your organization by using your skills in internal communications?

5. Are you managing yourself? How many hours a week are you working? Are you noticing any signs of stress? If so, what are you doing about it?

6. One of the ways you might be able to tell if you're stressed out and/or losing perspective might be whether you're tracking details or not. Are you using the action item list referenced above?

7. Are you reflecting on learnings from past modules and how they build on the learning in this module? For example, are you seeing your organization from a systems view, as explained in the module "Starting and Understanding Your Nonprofit?"

Reminders About Your Nonprofit

1. Now that you've given more thought to the design and marketing of your programs, go back to your strategic plan and update the plans about programs, staffing and operating plans.


1. One of the first indicators that an organization or a person is struggling is that open action items are not tracked and reviewed. (Open action items are required actions that have not yet been completed.) Instead, people only see and react to the latest "fires" in their workplaces or their lives. Whether open action items are critical to address now or not, they should not entirely be forgotten. Therefore, update and regularly review a list of open action items (identified while proceeding through this program) that includes listing each open action item, who is responsible to complete it, when it should be completed and any associated comments. When updating the list, consider action items as identified during discussions, learning activities and assessments in this module. Share and regularly review this action item list with the appropriate peers, board, management and employees in your organization. You can use the following Action Item Planning List. (At that Web address, a box might open, asking you which software application to open the document.)

2. If you have questions, consider posing them in the national, free, online discussion group, which is attended by many human resource and organization development experts.

(Learners in the nonprofit organization development program can return to the nonprofit organization development program.)

For the Category of Marketing:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

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