Nonprofit products are services
For nonprofits, your product is a service in the form of a program, education, or other resources.

The first P of the marketing mix is PRODUCT, regardless if you produce widgets or offer a service. This confuses people often, especially nonprofit marketers. “We don’t sell a product,” they insist. 

Yes, you do. It’s your program, your services, your expertise. Even if you offer a free service, there is a value (a price tag) attached to that service. It is what you produce and therefore your PRODUCT. You might have a grant or donors covering the costs of the “free” services you offer but the recipients still have to “purchase” it. They do so by signing-up, enrolling, or simply participating. 

In the same way that an attorney, a CPA, even a physician offers a service as their PRODUCT, nonprofits offer a service as support, education, guidance or other resources. 

Some are hybrid. You might offer cancer support services and sell products that make cancer treatments more comfortable or aid in post-operation recovery. In this example, the organization offers a service that is intangible and also offers tangible products that the same customer might need. 

Usually, services offer a result. They offer peace of mind, better physical health, a better outlook, informed decisions. In the case of the arts, the product is the enjoyment of a shared experience. All great products to market!

Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and small businesses. She recently published Laws of Promotion. The 50-page promotional guide for small businesses and local nonprofits is available now on Amazon.

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