Positioning describes how you stack up to the competition.

While the notion of competition is often a bit foreign in the nonprofit world, I’d like to assert that competition is good for the community.  Positioning defines how and where you fit in with regard to your work and mission.  Positioning is a way to illustrate how you are unique and to differentiate yourself from all the others that work with your constituents. It forces you to seriously consider the how of what you do and compare and contrast it with others in your field.

Competition in the for-profit world has always driven companies to create better and better products in the interest of creating an edge for increasing sales.  This drive to be the best has always benefited the consumer with faster, lighter, smaller/bigger, cheaper, and often exceptional products.  In the nonprofit world, this concept of competition can greatly benefit the community as well and serve to focus programs and deliver greater outcomes to those in need.

Using the proper lens to view competition with an awareness of the nuance can provide a great boon to your programs, fundraising, and message of impact to the community. Competition comes in three basic forms:

  1. Direct – This group has the same market focus and therefore includes those organizations that work with the same community and provide a similar service.
  2. Indirect –  Are those organizations that perform a different service, but work with the same community. They meet the needs of your service recipients in a different way.
  3. Resource – These competitors are those organizations that participate in acquiring the same essential items you need in order to operate, such as, grants, gifts, volunteers, and public services.

Once identified and evaluated, an important step is to work to capitalize on those differences.  You should improve your programs (or eliminate them) with an eye towards becoming unique in the community.  These distinct differences then become key elements that you should highlight in all your marketing communications.

What makes you special?

When donors look to fund an organization, they not only look for success and positive impact, they also want to know what makes you special, because they often identify emotionally with discrete program variations.  Therefore, your best bet for improving your brand is to celebrate these differences.  Most importantly, when there is a clear delineation between your organization and others, there exists a greater opportunity for collaboration, which collectively reduces competition between those very organizations.

As a result, the community benefits with more collaborative organizations and better focused programs.  And that after all, is what it is all about, right?