4 Tips for Selling to Nonprofit Organizations

The United States is home to more than one and a half million registered 501(c)(3) organizations. And even though such groups’ main focus isn’t to bring in big profits, that doesn’t mean they don’t have cash to spare: For instance, nearly 75 percent of surveyed non-profits have used outside consulting firms for services such as website development and programming. There are ample opportunities to sell services or products to non-profit organizations, but how can you market to a do-good organization without seeming exploitative?

Here are four tips for selling to nonprofit organizations.

  1. Join their circles. Even if your business is for-profit, it’s important to jump into the non-profit scene before trying to make sales. Join relevant associations (many non-profit associations allow businesses to join as “friends” of the association), attend non-profit workshops and fundraisers, and stay up to date on relevant news by reading publications such as The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Making a real effort to network and connect with non-profit leaders and donors will help you get introductions to decision-makers who might use your services. If you’re still focusing on developing your business model, connecting with local non-profits can also give you a better sense of what you can offer that they can’t receive elsewhere.
  2. Research their finances in advance. While some non-profit groups have plenty of cash to invest in technology, consultants, and products, others are barely scraping by. It’s easy to find out which is which before beginning your solicitations: Guidestar.org offers free downloads of all registered non-profits’ IRS 990 tax forms, which can help you determine how they’re doing financially. Check out this site for advice on how to read a non-profit’s 990 form.
  3. Sell them on your value. Non-profit directors need to account for every dollar they spend to the IRS, the board of directors, and the organization’s supporters. As a result, they’re likely to be very thorough in analyzing potential new products or services, and may do a lot of comparison-shopping before choosing a provider. Take the time to carefully assess your competition, and determine what you can offer that your rivals can’t. Particularly if you’re working in a crowded field, it may be wise to offer a discount to your non-profit clients—for instance, the email newsletter client MailChimp offers 15 percent off for registered charity groups.
  4. Be authentic. You’ll have the best odds of success in selling to charities if you actually care about what the organization is doing. If you’re passionate about rescuing shelter dogs, share the story about how you adopted your Black Lab when you make contact with local animal shelters about your web development agency. If you make a personal connection, you’re far more likely to make a sale.

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET, TheAtlantic.com, Inc.com, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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