With the increased downturn in economic activity, many non-profit organizations are also suffering as past contributions from citizens turn towards daily lifestyle needs. As a recent addition to our Humanitarian or “Green” Marketing Profile Report being created for 2008, we asked the important question among 13-25-year-olds in North America,
“What do you think are the best ways for a non-profit to help get their message across?”

Among thousands of respondents in a representative sampling from 49 different locations, the top way that youth culture thinks getting the message across is through Community Websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and other social networks. As some people commented, social networks are where they go to not only update their own profile pages and gather messages from friends, but also to look for event news, music information, and general lifestyle events.

This is followed relatively closely however to Event Sponsorships at 22.2%. This indicates that non-profits can benefit greatly from either being a part of an existing event, particularly music tour or festival, or if it’s strong enough, hosting an event of its own. TV ads ranks at 18.5%, but tends to decrease the younger the demographic which ranks Community Websites and Event Sponsorship in higher percentages than older.

This drops then to School Education Programs at 10.8%, Internet Ads at 7.2%, Documentary Films at 6%, and YouTube videos at 4.2%. What’s interesting about these results is that while the Internet is a key location for non-profits, traditional internet advertising such as banner ads are not all that conducive especially for non-profits.

What’s also notable is that while many non-profits today are turning to making documentary films or short films and posting them on YouTube, they are only marginally successful for getting the message across. Based on additional cross-tabs, they do rank higher among specific age groups and markets, depending on the goal of the non-profit, but it takes more than just creating the documentary or video to get the message across, namely a key marketing campaign.

As part of Label Networks’ company philosophy, we help a select number of non-profits each year and have noted the increased number in non-profits turning to creating and spending money on documentaries without much attention to the problem of once it’s been made, then how do you get that message across. Marketing has to be considered, and one of the best methods is engaging community networks, as well as participating in events as a non-profit sponsor, particularly music festivals or tours that reach a number of different markets.

Great example of non-profits that have been successful in getting their message across (and creating documentaries and videos) via music festivals include the Truth anti-smoking campaign by the American Legacy Foundation, PETA via the Vans Warped Tour, and Keep-a-Breast via the Vans Warped Tour and AP Magazine Tour. By attaching themselves to such grassroots tours, their messages have reached wider audiences and they have been able to tap into a wider community network (other than their own) including the festivals and tours’ networks (and in the case of AP, the magazine itself).

What we’ve measured too is that many larger non-profits often act as for-profits when it comes to messaging and spend a large percentage of budgets creating campaigns, particularly documentaries and videos, that in the end never reach beyond their own user-group as it simply sits on their own site or social network and doesn’t expand to potential new supporters.

Overall, while the economy suffers and therefore non-profits too, thanks to new media and technology, there are some innovative solutions for reaching a broader audience, which can also be a lesson for for-profit branding as well.