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Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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1 What is marketing?

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life
Figure 1 Cancer Research UK’s marketing and branding for Race for Life

Marketing is a big topic to explore, but essentially it refers to communicating to customers the value of a product, a service or a brand. Marketing is also about engaging supporters and building loyalty to the organisation and what it offers.

This means that marketing is not just about selling things or services – organisations need to convince people to buy-in to what they do. These basic principles apply across different sectors, including the voluntary sector. In a crowded and competitive marketplace, organisations need to work hard to get their message across and this includes voluntary organisations.

In the context of the voluntary sector, customers are usually defined as an organisation’s ‘stakeholders’. Some of these will be close to the organisation, such as volunteers, supporters and donors; others will be less directly involved.

Marketing is important in fundraising (which you will explore in more detail in Week 5). It can help to build a clear and identifiable image or brand for the organisation, so that potential supporters understand what the organisation does and why they might support that particular organisation’s work rather than another one.

Activity 1 Communicating with stakeholders

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Read this interview transcript featuring Gemma, Communications Officer at the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). Gemma talks about her marketing and communications work. Make notes on who she communicates with and what methods she uses.

Communications officer transcript [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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This interview gives you a quick example of some of the ways in which voluntary organisations try to promote or market the work that they do. Gemma highlights social media as a key way to get messages across. She mentions the organisation CharityComms, which provides advice on marketing and communication. If marketing or communication is part of your role (or an area you would like to explore), then you might want to visit their website at the end of this week or at the end of the course.

Now that you have a general overview of what marketing is, for the rest of this week you will explore how to communicate. The activities this week have been designed to help you improve your ability to convey messages – whether in promoting yourself at interviews or meetings, or in your day-to-day activities if your role involves marketing.