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How the for-profit marketing approach differs from a non-profit approach

It’s no secret that even non-profit organizations, just like their for-profit colleagues, have to use different, sometimes very similar, techniques and tools to achieve their goals, some of which are aimed at fundraising – for both types of organizations. But then you might wonder if there is a difference between them and the marketing approach they might use. Of course there are. And the difference is quite noticeable.

First, we need to clarify the primary purpose for which profit and non-profit organizations use marketing is to raise funds. The only difference is that business-oriented businesses need customers and sales to make a profit, while social organizations – non-profits, to be precise – need donors and supporters to promote and carry out their mission, for example, carrying out an educational project, financing a school, etc. The main objectives being different, it is the marketing approaches that will also differ, while the marketing tools and techniques will remain the same.

Businesses simplify

The principle of a shortened commercial message in a few words is quite simple: “you need or want something, we have it, so you buy it from us”. The consumer goes through one of the marketing channels to pick up something they want and they are satisfied when they do, after paying for it, of course.

Non-profit organizations encourage

There is nothing physical that nonprofits can give to their supporters in exchange for their loyalty, help, support, and donations. But their followers receive intangible things in return – emotional and ethical satisfaction.

Businesses and nonprofits spend

The expenses for both types of organizations are quite high when it comes to marketing activities. Yes, there are certain marketing techniques for almost every channel that may be free but still. The more you invest, the better results you get.

Another difference is the source of these expenses. Businesses usually invest a portion of their income or trade credits, while nonprofits can use different programs and apply for different grants that will provide them with the necessary funds for paid marketing activities. For example, Google may grant non-profit organizations a certain amount for paid Google ads. Yes, some limitations will be applied to nonprofit campaigns, but they will still be able to use almost all of the tools for their marketing needs.

Different orientation

Companies should always focus on profit. Otherwise, they will not be able to repay their investments in operational and marketing activities. This is why a business budget will include sales (a profit they make from it), operational expenses, marketing budget, and markups for services/goods sold. If there is no profit for the company, there will be no possibility of covering this budget. Nonprofits can, however, focus on the issue in their campaigns, having included their mission and message. They won’t need to think about profit margins, as well as sales – it’s only efficiency that nonprofits should worry about, i.e. whether or not they’re fulfilling their mission. . If their campaigns are successful, they will get more donors and therefore have a larger budget to continue their operations, as well as for more marketing activities.


Now, when we talk about the digital world and all the opportunities it has to offer businesses and nonprofits, it’s pretty much the same thing: the same tools and techniques are available for both and both must use them to succeed in their pursuits.

For example, a website is an indispensable tool for businesses because it can generate sales, while for a non-profit organization, this tool will also be useful in stimulating donations, educating supporters and raising awareness of the organization. The difference will mainly concern the design. There is some difference in nonprofit website design of a company: different calls to action, for example, a different approach to managing and publishing content, a different tone of voice, and many other things.

Summarizing all the things mentioned above, it is clear that the main difference and therefore the main focus that every nonprofit should keep in mind when working on their marketing approach is their mission. Whatever you do – use classic tools and channels that have already proven their effectiveness, test and experiment with new ones, or mix the two – your choice is always the right one if these actions and decisions help you in your mission.