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Marketing is a process

(and the trick to marketing is figuring out where your nonprofit is in that process.)

Do you have a marketing plan on paper?

When you go to create a social media post, do you know what colors, fonts, and pictures you plan on using in advance?

Do you feel like you have direction when you create a piece of marketing content?

These are just a few questions to ask yourself when considering where you are in the marketing process.

One of the “aha moments” I had when I was learning to think about the big picture of marketing was realizing marketing is a process. For me, the process is shaped like one of those Smart Art process charts (remember those?), or a wheel, with three distinct stages.

It looks something like this:

There are three “destinations” here: Drawing Board, Plan, and Action. Nonprofits don’t stay at each one of these destinations for long. Usually, they are moving from one destination to the other.

First, let’s talk about the destinations.

Drawing Board.

When your marketing is at the drawing board, you’re not sure where to start. Ideas spin in your head. You know what you’re doing isn’t working, but you haven’t done much to define the problem. At this stage, you hear yourself saying, "We need a Twitter," but you can’t articulate why you need a Twitter and never prioritize it. (That’s just an example).


You have a plan ready to go. You’ve gathered up all those ideas spinning in your head and put them on paper. This feels like a great place to be in. The trick is having the time to execute on your carefully thought-out plan.


You do have the time. You’re putting your plan into action. Your marketing is going and going. But over time, it can start to spin out of control. You realize your different marketing initiatives aren’t adding up to a cohesive message. Your brand is getting ambiguous. When you lay out all your organization’s flyers and brochures next to each other, nothing looks the same, and it certainly doesn’t match your look on social media.

More important than the destinations is the journey from one destination to the other. That’s where Catharsis comes in. In fact, Catharsis’ services are the steps from one destination to the other—one segment of the process chart.

Steps in the Marketing Process

1. Drawing Board to Action. (Read: Roadmapping)

In the roadmapping process, you’re getting your ideas for strategies and tactics on paper and prioritizing them.

  • You’re identifying who your audiences are.

  • You’re setting marketing goals.

  • You’re creating a content calendar.

The trick here is to ensure your marketing goals are in line with your nonprofit’s overall strategic goals. It helps to have an outside perspective guide your nonprofit through this process, and since I’m a planner at heart, it’s one of my favorite projects to work on with clients.

2. Plan to Action. (Read: Content Creation)

This is what we think of when we think of day-to-day marketing work. It’s putting the plan into action. It’s outreach to audiences with the strategies you identified, whether it be social media, a newsletter, flyers, in-person outreach, updating your website, etc. Content Creation partnerships with Catharsis are ongoing and great for nonprofits who know who they are and what their audiences are looking for, and just need an extra pair of hands to keep their marketing on track.

3. Action, Back to Drawing Board. (Read: Brand Synthesis)

The thrum of the everyday eventually guides you away from your strong brand identity and marketing strategy. Maybe your marketing efforts have become decentralized and ad hoc. Your brand is the sum of every interaction a person has with your nonprofit: on Facebook, on a flyer, on your website. But what if these touchpoints are inconsistent? People get confused!

I see this often in organizations that have never invested in full-time marketing staff. Some nonprofits take this as a cue for a rebrand, but I find that is not always necessary. Brand Synthesis is a process that brings the pieces of your marketing back together so that your visual feel and messaging are consistent. This process results in messaging plans, branded templates, and recommendations on brand cohesion.

So, how do you identify where your nonprofit stands in the marketing process?

The key here is to think about where your organization is in the marketing process. I created this free checklist to help you discern where your nonprofit stands:

Where Am I In the Marketing Process_Self-Assessment Checklist
Download PDF • 655KB

Still have questions? I’m happy to help diagnose! Schedule a free consultation and we’ll talk through your challenges.


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