The Theory of Change Behind Nonprofit Marketing

The “Theory of Change” is a popular strategic planning model in the nonprofit world. It graphically lays out all of the building blocks required to get from where you are now to where you want to be, so that your tactics are clearly connected to your larger goals.

As I was writing the first section of my new book on nonprofit content marketing strategies, I decided to sketch out a theory of change for nonprofit marketers. I think this is especially important because our field is still young as a profession and many people within nonprofits don’t really get it. That’s not their fault, as much as it ours, for not explaining the why’s behind our how’s and what’s. The theory of change is one way to provide that explanation.

A Theory of Change for Nonprofit Marketing



You can also reverse the order of the change path and put it into words through a series of “So That” statements.

  • You understand the wants and needs of your participants, supporters and influencers (PSIs), and your communications evoke the personality and promises you want to be known for, so that
  • Your content marketing strategy is relevant and valuable to your PSIs, so that
  • New and current PSIs are engaging with you, and strengthening their relationships with you all the time, so that
  • You are one of the favorite organizations, so that
  • You can rely on your PSIs to help when you ask, so that
  • You have the community support you need to achieve your mission.

What do you think? Make sense for your organization, or do you see a different theory of change for your work? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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  • Marta

    Kivi, you rule! I love this framework and know this will help non-communications staff at my organization understand our purpose better. Thank you for crystallizing this… I have a feeling this is something I will use again and again.

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