First impression of working for a NGO is working for a good cause and working for a company to get paid. But in my opinion working for a good cause should be our personal mission 24/7, not just at work. So, where I see the differences between NGOs and companies when working with them?
For the disclaimer I just want to emphasize writing below is my perspective based on working with sports, social and health NGOs mostly in Slovenia and the Balkan region and companies from different industries (sport, tourism, IT, automotive, FMCG etc.).
Project planning and funding is the biggest difference. Companies plan budgets a year in advance, also for marketing and communication, while NGOs usually have priorities in funding programs and marketing & communication is the last on the list. It depends on the size of the NGO, but still the importance of marketing & communication is low. Many times happens that the program starts “tomorrow” and NGO finds out a small budget for marketing & communication quite late. But this kind of work also gives a lot of motivation to challenge myself – am I still in a good night work condition? 🙂
Short timelines also demand higher flexibility on the side of NGOs. Due to a lack of employees at NGOs, many times happens that NGO people are more flexible from an organisational point of view in comparison to more structured system at companies. One person in NGO is usually operational in marketing, communications and program execution. Especially with social media they’ve got an advantage that NGO communication is easier, but on the other side there are many more NGOs like 10, 20, 30 years ago and a word “competition” is not unknown word in the NGO sector anymore.
It is quite common in business world to have products and brands. But when you step into the world of NGOs, there are programs, a word “fundraising” stands instead of sales department in companies. Words like brand, products, sale, marketing still has a commercial hint, especially while most of NGOs have experienced that it is harder to sell to companies as sponsors/partners and to mass market. It has been much easier to get funding at state tenders.
The power of emotions
Emotions are the key to get the attention and the main component of storytelling in marketing & communication. At the first glance it looks much easier to create emotional story for a NGO than a company. But when you need sell the product, the procedure is the same no matter what you have in hands. The result always depends on so many factors – from strategy to execution and many people who work on the project.
There is just a difference among people
It has happened so many times to me that projects with small budget and short timeline were much more successful than big budget projects. The latest are many times more tricky than the first one. Just because the time and money limits bring out of people more creativity to reach the goal. No matter how experienced the team is, the dedication, work and passion are much stronger factor of success than a big budget.