Volunteer Advice: Top 5 Marketing Tips for Community Groups

By Laura Bickenson, Sported Volunteer

Great marketing can greatly improve your organisation’s long-term sustainability, whether it’s helping to attract new members or winning the confidence of prospective funders.

 

Here, Sported volunteer Laura Bickenson gives you her top five tips on how to effectively market your group.

 

1. Dissect, assess and review your organisation

Yes, you got it, pick it to bits.  It’s important to step out of your role in the community group and to look objectively at what your organisation is all about and what the current aims and objectives are, or what they should be.

 

Image of a napkin with a SWOT diagram drawn on itFind out from as many stakeholders as possible how your group is perceived; the service provided and the image and personality conveyed by the organisation.  I always find it helpful to embrace traditional marketing methods and carry out an ole’ faithful SWOT analysis; nothing flash, just a comprehensive list of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  Really get under the skin of the community group and think of it like a business.  By being a bit of a “swot” and carrying out a SWOT, it should help you to identify what is working well and which areas you can improve on.  Your marketing and communications can tap into this later, particularly any ‘Opportunities’ that you have identified.

 

Once you have brainstormed, ‘SWOT-ed’ and scrutinised all aspects of your community group and its existing marketing and promotions, hopefully you won’t be too disheartened (!) but will feel inspired and be in a better position to move on later with making improvements and using marketing and communications to help meet those aims and objectives.

 

2. Think about the desired ‘personality’ for your group

For example, should your organisation appear up-beat or sensitive, or should you be reflecting excitement and fun, trust or empathy?

 

Venn diagram with 'What's your brand personality?' overlayed aboveMake a note of the traits that your group should adopt and positively present to its community then create a persona that you will reflect through all your communications.  Be mindful of your target audiences and use tone and language appropriate to them.

 

It’s all about attracting and effectively engaging with those who may have an interest in what you do –  of course you need to reach your existing and potential group members through appropriate channels, but that may be a waste of time if, when you make contact, your organisation is using a language and style that your audiences just don’t connect with.

 

It’s also important to remember that your marketing is centred around a “people business.”  Be the kind of organisation who is clear of its values and share them.  Aim to be inclusive and promote diversity.  Whilst organisations need to be targeted when trying to reach their identified key audiences, you should welcome and encourage involvement from all members of your community who are interested in your group.

 

3. Brand image and identity

So, what do people think when they see the name of your community group?  What image does your organisation convey through its logo, its style and its promotional materials?

 

Your organisation’s marketing, communication and design efforts can influence how your brand is perceived and, for some, this may be an area they prefer to leave to other marketers and designers.

 

There’s much to creatively brainstorm in this area, however, reigning myself in, some basic level pointers could be:

 

Develop a brand positioning statement; just a couple of lines to help you focus on your organisation’s unique value and benefit to its members.

 

Adopt a well-designed logo and tagline that reflects your community group and its personality (mentioned earlier)

 

Use positive and engaging imagery in your promotional materials to create the desired picture of what you are about

 

• Be clear on how your organisation will express itself; its character through its writing style and tone.

 

Develop some key messages that can be used, by yourselves and others, across various marketing and communications. These will help you to clearly express who the organisation is and what you do.

 

Ensure continuity of design, colours, fonts and style across all your promotional materials; both online and offline.

 

Hopefully, this will help your organisation to become recognisable as a brand and to create the desired image of your community group; perceived by those who come across it.

 

4. Cost effective contacts

It’s likely that, as a community group, you’ll always be thinking of the most cost effective ways to promote your service or activities.  It may sound obvious, but take the time to consider all those who have links to your organisation and think how they may be able to help.

 

Whether that’s the wife of a group member who happens to work at the local newspaper or a contact at a supporting organisation who sends you regular e-bulletins, find out what promotional materials or editorial platforms you may be able to tap into.

 

If their audiences or colleagues may have an interest in your organisation, it’s certainly worth exploring any opportunities for publicity.  Company newsletters or publications, staff emails, intranet news boards, or even local events – you’ll find there’s many channels to explore for a bit of coverage or presence, especially if you start by using your existing contacts.  Remember to keep a contact database and keep details of any associated publication dates, deadlines and distribution figures so that you can plan when to send over any news or promotional information and you are aware of how many people are likely to have access to this.

 

Promotional coverage aside, don’t forget to consider if any of your other contacts may be able to offer training or funding support.  Assistance in these areas will strengthen and grow your community group as an organisation, not to mention, provide you with further opportunities for publicity.

 

5. Plan, share, use and review

 

Image of a hand drawing a diagram including the words Marketing Strategy in the shape of a lightbulbIf you have taken the time to look at how you may improve your marketing and communications, your next step is to form some sort of marketing plan that you can then share with the rest of your team.  Personally, I like to create a marketing strategy document and a separate marketing action plan.  With a marketing strategy document, I tend to compile this so that it is set out as a business document that could be shared with any chosen stakeholders.  It’s a detailed document that can include your aims and objectives, brand considerations, key messages, your target audiences, a SWOT analysis, suggestions for marketing and communication activity and any budget considerations.  It can be useful to refer to if you need to focus on specific areas or even to aid with your planning for new projects.

 

A marketing action plan can then be created to use alongside the marketing strategy.  In the marketing action plan, suggested actions can be scheduled over a given period, tasks can be allocated to individuals, and progress monitored.  However you choose to structure and present your marketing plan, it’s important to share it with your team and to try your best to action what you can.  Plans are there to guide and to use but always try to review your marketing and communications efforts along the way.  If certain marketing actions are not proving to be effective for your community group, then you know not to include them in your future plans.

 

Social media should feature in your marketing plan as this channel of communication is important for any community group.  It may prove helpful to create a separate social media marketing strategy that compliments the rest of your marketing strategy and can be easily referred to, especially by those who will actively communicate your work through social media channels.

 

If you would like support with your group’s marketing, why not call upon the free expertise of Sported’s volunteers, through either our Light Touch or Mentoring placement service. For more info, please contact volunteer@sported.org.uk