When a nonprofit does not have a significant internal marketing capacity and doesn’t have the budget for outsourced help, a volunteer committee may seem like the answer. And it very well could be. But that decision needs to be carefully thought through, taking into consideration the pros and cons.
Before diving in, ask yourself these questions:
Who will lead the committee? Do you have a member on your board of directors who is a marketing professional and who can chair the committee and hold its members accountable? Typically, a nonprofit’s marketing committee includes one board member who also chairs the committee. This is important to ensure the efforts are lead by someone with a true understanding of your organization and a vested interest in the results. If your organization does not have a board member that has experience leading marketing initiatives, it will be difficult to have an effective volunteer committee.
What about staff time? Do you have a staff member with the time and expertise to take ownership of the committee? How many staff members will have to attend the meetings and how often? Do they already have full schedules? Be sure to include staff in this conversation, particularly the ones that are most likely to be affected by having, or not having, a volunteer marketing committee.
Who will be on the committee? Who will be recruit members for your marketing committee, what is their understanding of marketing, and what is their motivation for who they will ask? It is common knowledge that one of the benefits of volunteer work is networking. However, it is important that you understand the full motivations behind those recruited and those volunteering. Is their priority to serve your nonprofit’s goals or possibly their own?
What kind of marketing committee will it be? There are two kinds of committees. Will yours be a working committee that is responsible for completing tasks, or an advisory committee that makes recommendations to staff, who then are responsible for completing the tasks themselves? If the latter, does your nonprofit have the internal capacity to achieve this?
What’s the plan? Is there already some sort of plan in place that the committee will use as a foundation, or will the committee be starting from scratch? If your nonprofit doesn’t have a current strategic plan, this should be your first step before considering a marketing committee. Most likely, the strategic-planning process will give you the guidance and answers needed to identify the best option for your nonprofit.
One of the best ways a nonprofit can determine if a marketing committee will work, is to create one simply to market a particular event or fundraising initiative. This allows you to test the waters and see if your nonprofit marketing committee will float without you doing all the rowing.
Written by Hannah B. Gregory. (LinkedIn)
Hannah B. Gregory is a nonprofit marketing expert, PR strategist and founder of SHOESTRING (the nonprofit’s agency). As an expert in the field, she and has been interviewed by Marketplace on NPR, NBC News and others. A trained and experienced journalist, she has a passion for helping nonprofits tell their stories and working with the news media to produce meaningful coverage. Hannah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-835-6236. Follow her on Twitter at @NonprofitHannah.