I learned nonprofit marketing on the job too.
My college degree is in environmental sciences and city planning, not nonprofit management or marketing.
Kivi Leroux Miller
When I started my consulting business in 1998, I thought I’d make a living as a freelance writer and editor for environmental organizations. I’d worked for the federal government, for a small foundation, and had served on boards and volunteered with numerous nonprofits. I saw plenty of need for a good writer who understood both the issues and the nonprofit world.
But within a matter of months, clients were asking if I could not only write their newsletter, but lay it out too. And could I get bids from the printer while I was at it? And convert it to a PDF and put in on the website? Could I not only whip up a press release, but call a few reporters too?
Before long, I was updating website copy, digitally cleaning up photos, and designing web pages. I went from reviewing The Elements of Style to setting styles in PhotoShop, PageMaker, InDesign, and DreamWeaver. I thought more about the rules of HTML and PHP than the rules of good grammar. Soon I was not only implementing tactics for clients, but also creating their marketing strategies, drafting their communications budgets, and attempting to calculate return-on-investment for all of this work.
For a few clients, I became their entire communications department. I either had to do it myself or, in a few cases, find very reasonably priced subcontractors to help me out, or the work wouldn’t get done. It certainly wasn’t a perfect solution for me or for my nonprofit clients, but we made it work, because it was the only option.
Over the next decade, I learned how to be that nonprofit marketing department of one. I experimented all the time, producing both successes and failures, but always learning. I spent more money than I care to admit on software, handbooks, and training courses to learn all I thought I needed to know, some of which was priceless, some of which was a complete waste of time and hard-earned cash.
In 2007, I decided to transition from primarily consulting to primarily training. I launched NonprofitMarketingGuide.com, which led to the publication of the book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause in 2010.
We also began surveying nonprofit communications professionals and releasing the annual Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, a vital community resource on the state of our profession.
My second book, the award-winning Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money, was released in September 2013. My third book, CALM not BUSY — a framework for managing nonprofit communications teams — was published in 2018.
In 2020, we released the culmination of several years of research and practical experience in the Nonprofit Communications Strategic Planning Card Deck, which is essentially a planning handbook in card deck form. The second edition of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide came out in 2021. (If you don’t already have them, all three books and the card deck are included with your Mentoring Program registration.)
We also continue to publish one of the top blogs on nonprofit communications several times a week.
2023 will mark the 15th year of our webinar series and the 12th year of this mentoring program!