Overcoming “Strategy-Phobia” in Nonprofits


“We got a grant! Let’s do a video!” is an oft-heard rallying cry in the nonprofit world. But it can be a costly mistake in the long run.

When Luckie set out to offer free marketing consultations to local nonprofits, this was a common theme across a variety of organizations.

Luckie launched our Work From Pub Day nonprofit program in March of 2020. Originally designed to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, the pandemic ultimately forced us into virtual consultations, which we now hold on an ongoing basis.

“The first thing we heard loud and clear was that despite an abundance of passion and hard work, there are common hurdles all nonprofits face,” says Teresa Caro, Luckie VP, marketing and planning. These include a lack of marketing experts on the board, limited experience with marketing strategy and limited understanding of success measures.

Luckie decided to create a three-step approach for these organizations:

  1. Think holistically with a strategic framework.
  2. Build an army of advocates and invest in ways to communicate with them.
  3. Plan for the full life cycle and determine how you want to measure success.

For a nonprofit, grant money is precious, so the push for immediate tactics is easy to understand. But for organizations like More Than 4 Athletics, taking the time to understand its audience and strategically engage with them in a phased approach through social media, for example, were important steps that didn’t need to be skipped in a rush to create a video.

Luckie Group Creative Director Maria Goodall explains: “Spending more time upfront generally yields more efficiencies and better results as it provides a strategic approach leading to the right tactics with the right calls to action.” She adds, “Think of it as a chess game where thinking several moves ahead puts you in a better position to win.”

YouthServe, another group we worked with, lacked the marketing expertise it needed but did have a passionate group of kids who had been through the program. For YouthServe, Caro suggested tapping into the useful marketing skills many of the kids who had attended the program had gone on to obtain. “This is a way to form a part-time marketing board of passionately knowledgeable advocates,” Caro says.

For the group Love Not Lost, Tunde Noibi, Luckie VP, marketing technology, points out that developing a way to formalize the organization’s vision of success and find a way to measure it was key. He says that “understanding success measures, using tech correctly to lead you to insights and learning how to use data analytics to optimize communications” are fundamental and worthwhile investments. He adds that working with a group’s existing technology is always the starting point.

So will these nonprofits end up with the shiny, sparkly videos they were envisioning? It’s quite likely. But the three critical first steps – establish a strategic framework, find and communicate with advocates, and identify success metrics – are crucial to helping nonprofits of all kinds succeed and grow.