Recently I have been reading the wonderful book series The Baby-Sitters Club by Anne M. Martin, with my daughter.
I haven’t read these in years, but I remember how much they spoke to me and how much I loved them.
The storytelling and the rich character development were pretty revolutionary.
Way before women my age defined themselves as a Carrie, a Samantha, a Miranda, or a Charlotte, we were either a Kristy (me), a Mary-Anne, a Stacey, or a Claudia.
The best part about these books is that these girls are kick-ass innovative entrepreneurs!
Within the first book in The Baby-Sitters Club series, Kristy’s Big Idea, there are a multitude of marketing ideas that can apply to just about any nonprofit, large or small, established or start-up.
Here are just 6 nonprofit marketing lessons learned from The Baby-Sitters Club.
1) Fill an identified needs gap.
These girls didn’t sit around trying to think of an idea.
They didn’t form a club because they needed something to do, or because they THOUGHT that there was a need.
Rather, Kristy got the idea for The Baby-Sitters Club from listening to her mom’s pain of trying to find a babysitter for her younger brother.
She saw her mom calling multiple sitters to no avail.
So Kristy thought, what if there was a one-stop shop for a group of baby-sitters, qualified, and looking for work?
Thus the idea of the Club was born.
By listening to her audience, and identifying a need in the community, Kristy was sowing the seeds of a successful enterprise.
2) Be resourceful.
Kristy and co. did not have a ton of money to spend in the early days, so they focused their initial efforts on reaching people where they were – their mailboxes!
Using the photocopy machine at Kristy’s mom’s work (probably unethical, but we can overlook that and call it resourceful), they made fliers and put them in people’s mailboxes.
The book was published in 1980, before social media, email, and websites. They used the resources at their disposal, and reaped the benefits.
3) Please and delight your donors (or customers).
The girls continually go above and beyond in their customer service, and their follow through.
One example is that each of the baby-sitters would write in a group journal after each babysitting job, taking notes about what worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved.
This systematic recording of knowledge made it very easy for one of them to simply pick up the journal and learn about their best customers.
They knew exactly how they wanted to be contacted, how they would pay, what they would tip, what their kids liked, and more!
And what about the Kid Kits that they created as a special feature for VIP clients? Brilliant.
4) Invest in marketing.
Beyond papering the town with fliers, the girls pooled their club dues and bought an ad in the local newspaper for even more exposure.
I love this, because i know many small nonprofits that would not even invest this paltry sum on their marketing.
Yet, these ambitious girls did just that – and they gave a special phone number so that they could tell the results of their investment. Super smart.
They continued to invest a portion of their weekly profits into paying for ads.
5) Leverage word-of-mouth.
In the nonprofit world, word-of-mouth fundraising is called peer-to-peer.
The Baby-Sitters Club used the power of peer referral in their marketing but asking their best clients to talk to their friends and family members.
6) Know your brand.
One of the first things that the club did was create a logo.
Of course, not all of us have a talented artist like Claudi Kishi on staff, but even the middle-school girls in The Baby-Sitters Club understood the importance of branding.
They knew that it would make them memorable, and help them stand out.
These proven marketing principles of knowing your brand, understanding your target audience, and investing in marketing should resonate today with nonprofits as they try to increase visibility for their work and create deeper connections with donors.