October 22, 2019
Creating a Marketing Plan? Consider These Questions

By Nancy E. Schwartz

Nancy Schwartz
By analyzing its target audience, budget, and objectives, a nonprofit organization can craft a marketing work plan based on robust but realistic strategies.

It might take as long as a few months to fill in this marketing plan template, depending on how much research you have at hand to help answer key questions. It’s best to work with a core task force of staff and appropriate board members.

The human resources available to implement the plan are a critical factor to consider as your task force follows this step-by-step template.

1. Goals

Key question – What is your organization’s main goal (1-2 goals)? What are your communications goals (1-3 goals) and what are the communications goals that will contribute to achieving the overall goal?

Organizational goal:

  • Improve community health by significantly reducing exposure to toxic chemicals like lead in homes, bay contamination, and air pollution from trucks, ships, power plants and other sources.
Communications goals:
  • Build awareness about OrgABC’s work and impact.
  • Increase understanding of the relationship between health and the environment.
  • Motivate area residents to advocate.
2. Objectives

Key question – What are 3-5 concrete, specific, measurable (when possible) steps to take to achieve your communications goals? Vague objectives will get you nowhere.


  • Finalize partnerships with two organizations to cross-promote advocacy campaigns.
  • Increase the number of incoming inquiries (coming from a partner org website, a volunteer advocate or another source) from prospective volunteer advocates by 10% in 2010 and by 15% additional in 2011.
3. Target Audience

Key question – Who are the 1-3 top audience groups you need to engage to meet your communications objectives and what do you need them to do? Most importantly, what are the wants, habits and preferences of each group?


  • County residents – Build their understanding of the environmental health dangers in the region and how they can improve the situation, so they are motivated to advocate for cleaner environmental behavior on the part of corporations. Their main want – for their children to stay healthy.
  • Staff members of prospective partner orgs working in the region – Build understanding of OrgABC’s role and impact in fighting for community health so prospective partners see the partnership as providing value to their own impact, and want to collaborate.
4. Best Strategies

Key question – Given your target audience groups and the actions you want them to take, what are the best ways to motivate them to do so?


  • Branding – Define, convey and reinforce a robust OrgABC brand (the unique way in which the organization delivers its health expertise in improving community health and the value that it provides) for all target audiences. Consistent, memorable branding helps your base to keep your organization top of mind, and spread the word about it.
  • Expand marketing reach to engage more individuals in each target audience group.
5. Tactics

Key question – How to deliver the messaging to your audience via these strategies?


  • Org message platform – Development, implementation throughout communications and in conversations.
  • Org “look and feel” – Design a new graphic identity (logo, colors, typefaces) to be used consistently throughout online and offline communications.
  • Empower staff, board members and volunteers to be effective communicators on OrgABC’s key issues and its impact in that arena by clearly specifying each individual’s role as a marketer and by providing any necessary training.
  • Standards guide – Create a guide (PDF) for staff and volunteer messengers to use to make decisions on messaging and “look and feel” of communications.
6. Roles and Responsibilities

Key questions:

  • Who does what?
  • Existing staff? New staff? Outsource?
  • How many hours (per week or month) is it expected to take?
  • What training (if any) is necessary to build necessary skills?
7. Step-by-Step Work Plan

Key question – How to roll out the program? Elements – Every discrete task that needs to be done, who tackles each task, start date and deadline for each task

8. Budget

Key question – How much is it going to cost?

  • Ideal to begin planning process with an idea of what you can spend so you can plan realistically.
  • Goal is to develop an understanding of greatest ROI (return on investment) and to track budget in coming year.
  • These findings will inform the budget for the following year.
9. Evaluation

Key questions – Measure outputs and outcomes.

  • What is working best, so your org can do more of it?
  • What targets are engaged and which segments do you need to engage differently?
  • What content is most compelling to your base?
  • What messaging generates action, and what fails to stir the pot?
  • Website usage analytics: “What are the most visited pages on your site” to “what keywords are users searching on to get to your site?”
  • Response rate to direct mail, direct e-mail.
  • Open and click through rates to e-mail fundraising and other e-blasts.
  • Online survey findings and other audience research.
  • Change in volume of incoming inquiries from each source (website, volunteer referral).
Nancy E. Schwartz specializes in nonprofit marketing and is publisher of Getting Attention newsletter. She can be reached at nancy@nancyschwartz.com. Copyright 2010 and reprinted with permission of Getting Attention.

December 2010

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