6 Controversial Marketing Techniques which are Totally Awesome and Ethical for Nonprofits

Cleaning window with a squeegee


Look at the bright side

Sure, for-profits usually have big advantages when it comes to big marketing budgets, but there’s an angle that is unique to nonprofits that they cannot touch.Nonprofits can use certain marketing approaches that for-profits generally can’t.

Remember the ASPCA campaign featuring Sara McLachlan? If a for-profit created a similar campaign, it would undoubtedly be viewed as exploitative. Instead, it raised $30 Million and gave the organization the ability to gain more traction in a spot that featured unwanted animals facing a cruel fate if donations didn’t arrive… quickly!

So the key is to seek out those special opportunities where your nonprofit can stand out above the noise and gain more traction and donations, through emotional appeals. Here are some things you can do or ask donors to do for a good cause

Top 6 Controversial for-profit marketing techniques

…which become awesome and ethical, when used in nonprofit marketing, as presented by Jamey Heinze, Chief Marketing Officer at CDS Global , at The 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference:

1. Inappropriate Requests
Only a nonprofit can ask to be put in a will! Planned Giving, very important, should be part of mix. According to Giving USA, 8% of all donations last year were bequests—that represented nearly $28 Billion!

2. Awkward Timing
Sending out a thank your for a donation? Include another ask at the same time. Ask for additional engagement, volunteer hours, needed items, more money, survey participation.

3. Ask again and again…and again
Recurring gifts are a great boost to your bottom line. They bring in more donations (According to a Blackbaud report, recurring donors give 600%-800% more than annual donors), keep donors involved and save on costs associated with acquiring new donors. Your donors believe in your cause- make it easy for them to give by asking them to “subscribe” with a recurring gift.

4. Play on Emotions
What may be seen as exploitative in a for-profit is both effective and positive for a nonprofit.
ASPCA raised $30 million and built additional traction with the Sara McLachlan campaign. And
studies have found that an appeal to the right “feeling” side of the brain, faired twice as successful vs an appeal to the left “thinking” side.

5. Creep
While some for-profit targeted marketing campaigns can be viewed as creepy, they can increase personalization and engagement when properly tied to your donors. Personalization is key to starting a conversation with your doors. Before starting, decide what data you want to capture and how you’ll use it and how you’ll get, both online and offline, data into your CRM.

6. Brag!
Your mission, your core values, your organization and your successes are all great stories! Work across departments to gather the stories from all corners of your organization and decide on how best to tell them. But tell them!

See Heinze’s full presentation on SlideShare:


Have a campaign that you’d like to share? Tell us about it!


About The Bridge Conference: The 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference recently held at the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor, MD attracted a record number of more than 1700 registrants and was sold out by noon on the first day. More than 70 educational sessions were filled to standing room only and the Solutions Showcase was a constant hub of activity.