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Last month, Incite Founder and President, Ted Kouri, delivered a compelling presentation to a group of not-for-profit and charitable organizations as part of the Edmonton Community Foundation’s (ECF’s) Endowment Sustainability Program. This annual event is a cornerstone in Ted’s calendar, reflecting his commitment to equipping local nonprofits with the strategies they need to succeed in marketing and fund development. 

Ted’s talk (not to be confused with Ted Talks) centered around four, high-level marketing concepts, designed to provoke strategic thinking about the role and impact of marketing within a nonprofit organization. He emphasized that marketing should have a seat at the strategic decision-making table. 

“Marketing is not just about creating flashy messages or creative communication tools,” Ted asserted. “It’s about being the voice of the donor, understanding how donors interact with your programs, reviewing all touchpoints, and intentionally planning the messages and feelings donors should be left with after any interaction with your organization.” 

Building Connection: The Core Theme 

At the heart of Ted’s presentation was the powerful concept of building connections. Nonprofits often struggle with long-term financial stability and spend considerable resources on seeking new donors through social media campaigns and CRM tools. However, Ted highlighted a counterintuitive, yet effective, approach: starting from the inside out. 

“Too often, marketing efforts are siloed,” Ted noted. “When board members and high-level staff are unaware of new marketing initiatives like a website overhaul, it creates a disconnect. Start by building connections with your close allies—your staff, board, and volunteers. Equip them to become your brand ambassadors, reducing reliance on expensive, broad-reaching campaigns.” 

The Importance of Repetition and Consistency 

Ted discussed the overwhelming volume of messages that people are bombarded with daily, making it harder for any single message to stand out. He underscored the importance of frequency and repetition in marketing communications. 

“Twenty-five years ago, the rule of thumb was that a message needed to be heard seven times to be absorbed,” Ted explained. “Today, with the constant noise we filter out, that number is much higher. Nonprofits must use multiple channels and repeat their messages consistently to ensure they resonate.” 

Ensuring a Cohesive Donor Experience 

Ted emphasized that effective marketing extends beyond messaging to the entire donor experience. He posed critical questions about how nonprofits ensure their brand’s voice and purpose are reinforced at every touchpoint, from initial contact to ongoing interactions. 

“How are you showing up for your donors?” Ted asked. “Is the experience consistent with the message you’ve communicated? Whether it’s a tour of your office, a thank-you note, or an event invitation, every interaction should be intentional and reinforce your brand.” 

One of the most specific insights Ted shared was about the nonprofit fund development cycle. He compared it to a customer funnel, moving a donor from identification to stewardship. He noted that too much emphasis is often placed on identification and solicitation, with insufficient focus on cultivation and stewardship. 

“Marketing should play a strategic role in the entire fund development cycle. This means creating opportunities for two-way conversations with donors, engaging them without always asking for something, and bringing value to them.”

-Ted Kouri, Incite President and CEO 

Ted challenged nonprofits to think about how often they reach out to donors without making an ask, and how they can engage in conversations that matter to donors. It’s about building relationships and showing that you care about your donors’ interests and values. 

Practical Takeaways for Nonprofits 

Ted’s session was rich with practical insights and actionable advice. Here are the key takeaways for nonprofits looking to enhance their marketing and fund development strategies: 

  1. Strategic Integration: Ensure marketing has a seat at the strategic decision-making table to influence and align with organizational goals.
  2. Internal Alignment: Build connections from the inside out, starting with staff, board, and volunteers, making them brand ambassadors.
  3. Consistent Messaging: Use multiple channels and repeat messages frequently to break through the noise and ensure they resonate. 
  4. Cohesive Experience: Ensure every donor interaction is intentional and reinforces your brand’s voice and purpose. 
  5. Comprehensive Fund Development: Focus on the entire fund development cycle, with special attention to cultivation and stewardship. 

At Incite, we believe in the power of strategic communication and authentic engagement to drive meaningful change, and Ted’s work with ECF exemplifies this commitment. 

For nonprofits aiming to elevate their marketing efforts, Ted’s guidance provides a roadmap to not just meet but exceed their goals, ensuring they can continue to serve their communities effectively and sustainably.