Designing and Marketing Your Programs

Sections of this topic

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

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

    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 is 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.

    The 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. The results of this marketing analysis indicate
    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, and customer satisfaction
    with products and services, etc.

    of the largest in the program. The activity of marketing an organization
    and its programs are 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 the 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 into 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.

    Guidelines for Nonprofit Program Design and Marketing

    Marketing Basics, Analysis, and Positioning

    – – – What
    Programs Are, What They Are Not

    — particularly the sections:
    – – – Marketing
    (the introduction “Marketing” — A Commonly Misunderstood

    – – – Basics
    of Market Planning (read first 7 articles about doing a marketing

    – – – Market
    — particularly the sections:
    – – – – – – Basic
    Methods to Get Feedback from Customers (read all)

    – – – – – – Some
    Major Sources of Market Research Information (read all)

    – – – Competitive
    Analysis (read the introduction at the top of the page)

    – – – – – – Direct
    and Indirect Competition – Definitions

    – – – – – – What
    is Competitive Intelligence?

    – – – Pricing
    (read the introduction at the top of the page)

    – – – Naming
    and Branding (read the introduction at the top of the page)

    – – – Intellectual
    Property (read the introduction at the top of the page)

    – – – Positioning
    (read the introduction at the top of the page)

    Advertising and Promotions

    and Planning (read the introduction)

    – – – Major
    Methods of Advertising and Promotion (read all)

    Public and Media Relations

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


    is Sales?

    the Sales Process

    Optional — Customer Service

    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

    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

    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
    The 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 for 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 a description
    of resources needed to achieve the goals and objectives, and the
    funding necessary to obtain and use the resources. Required resources
    usually include 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 for 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
    , 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,
    the 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,

    List Your Target Market(s)

    2. In the table in Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions
    , 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 target 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
    , 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 demographic information
    (their age ranges, family arrangement, education levels, income
    levels, typical occupations, major interests, etc).

    Analysis of Competitors

    4. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions
    , and 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
    , and 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
    , and write results from your pricing analysis. Several major
    factors influence the pricing of 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
    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 is 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
    , and 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
    , and 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
    , and 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
    developing skills in interpersonal relations, such as questioning,
    listening, handling difficult people, handling interpersonal conflicts,
    and 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
    , and fill in the 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 in the near future?
    How do you know?

    Conduct Your Distribution Planning

    11. In the Framework for Basic Nonprofit Marketing and Promotions
    , and fill in the 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 are 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

    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 addressing 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
    the 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.

    Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been
    selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

    Related Library Topics

    Recommended Books