• Colbi Twiss

Marketing in a non-profit world.

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

There is marketing and then there is marketing for a non-profit organization, and it's a world of difference.


J.K. Rowling

A whole new world

Hello, and welcome to my first post. I am so excited to share the daily makings of a non-profit. From the marketing side, to the staff, community partners, and donor support. We are all in this together, so let's get started.

A little bit about me. I wanted to be in advertising (now mostly called marketing) since I saw Nothing In Common with Tom Hanks. In 1997 I got my advertising degree and set my sites on getting in on the hussel and bussel of brilliant creative minds. I wanted the fast pace work environment. Travel with an expense account. I was so excited to be involved in commercials, print ads, developing logos and branding for big companies and start-ups. I did this for 20 years. And I loved it.

In January I was given a new opportunity. An opportunity that I never knew I wanted but now I never want to let it go. I am the marketing manager for the Children's Home Society of Idaho. I have done what countless Boise locals have done all their lives while living here. I have driven past this magnificent historic building located on Warm Spring Avenue, never really knowing what it was. Was it really an orphanage at one time? The answer is yes. Are kids still kids living there today? The answer is no.

Now, here I am working on the 2nd floor and strategizing how to bring awareness to what the Children's Home Society is. How it is related Warm Springs Counseling Center? How does this organization and center help children and families? What programs and services do we offer? Why is there such a stigma on mental health, and how can be break that stigma?

Mindful marketing.

Working at an agency you have clients who know that it takes money to make money. They came to you knowing it won't be a cheap investment but a needed investment. They are willing and able to pay for an agency to take over their branding and lead them in the pearly gates of marketing. You are able to tap into many mediums and resources because you are given a budget to do so.

The pressure at an agency is real, as clients want to see their ROI. At a non-profit the money you are spending is money that has been invested by the community. It is a donation made by a foundation, an organization, a family or an individual who supports your mission and believes in you. Money must be used and invested in wisely. Donors want to see where it is going. How and who is it helping? Is it helping children get the help they need?

Few examples of a company and individuals giving back; in September we were so fortunate to have ACHD pick the Children's Home as the sole beneficiary of their 2019 Annual Golf Benefit Scramble. Last weekend Gary and Janet Benoit of Idaho held a benefit estate sale where they sold over 20 years of their collected antiques and memorabilia giving the Children's Home all the proceeds. Can you say "WOW"!?

It's not only the money we received from these fundraisers, but it's the time they took to put them on. It's very humbling to see the outpouring of our community support. Because of this we need to make sure that we do right by them and that means doing right by our clients.

Wearing many hats

My role at an agency was as an account person, the liaison between the client and agency. Although I had pick up the design bug and taught myself how to use the adobe creative software, it would be an insult to real graphic designers to call myself a designer. However, I know enough to get by and do my job. Being able to navigate through the design programs, and my background as an account manager put me in a good position as a marketer for a non-profit. Here there is not a whole marketing team. It's just me and my amazing colleagues who I am lucky to call on for proofing and feedback. It's very common for non-profits to have only one marketer, if that. Sometimes they have no one. It might be the role of HR or operations. If that is the case, hopefully some of the marketing tips below will help.

Social Media

When I started in my career, it was the height of the dot-com era. Social media wasn't really around. Today I am so grateful for social media. While I understand some feel it takes away interaction from daily face to face conversations, a conflict I greatly understand, for me it's a free and valuable avenue to get the Children's Home Society's mission out into the public. It helps me tell our story. It creates awareness and allows our followers/supporters to help spread the word and feel they too are part of this organization. We also are able to track how well a message is received. I recommend to be present on at least Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Free advice for those looking for ways to market use social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinedIn).


Be in control of your own website. When it comes to using a tool to build and maintain your site, Wordpress, GoDaddy, Wix, are a few affordable sites that allow you to pick a template and create a site without being a web developer or graphic designer. By the way, you may notice the Wix logo on my blog. That is because if you don't mind seeing it, you can use the template for free. Can you say, "what Wix logo"?

Need to create an online form for people to sign up for newsletters, volunteer or make a donation? Check out Jotform. It is affordable and very easy to use. Speaking of online donations, make sure your donation link is front and center on your website and easy to find.

If you run into website issues and can't find the answer you need on google, reach out to someone you know who specializes in design or websites. Working for a non-profit I have learned to reach out to the talented "resources" I have meet along the way. People are more than happy to share their expertise, as it makes them feel they are helping out a good cause, because they are.

Being a part of the community

I know networking and being part of the community is pretty obvious. However, is it so important that I would be of disservice to you if I didn't mention it. Without a strong relationship with our community our doors would be closed. Sometimes we joke at how many times we say community around here, whether in our marketing, email communications or grants. The fact of the matter is we say it so much because is it that important. I have found that people have a special place in their heart for the Children's Home. Whether it is their love for the youth or a struggle they may have had as a child with mental illness, their passion comes from somewhere. That is why I always hashtag #inthistogether in all my social media posts. Giving our children a chance and the mental health care they all deserve, will build for a stronger community we all share. We really are in this together and need one another to make this happen.

Wrap it up

It's funny, I was nervous that I might not have much to say in my first post, so what would that mean for a second? However, what I wanted to say just came because I feel it is that important to give the Children's Home Society a voice and I am so passionate about my job and the work we are doing here.

Now that I have given an introduction of myself and hopefully some helpful marketing tips, where is this blog going? My boss asked me before I started this, "who is our target audience"? In which I answered, "anyone who will read it". I was half joking, but the truth is, this is for everyone because providing mental, emotional, and behavioral health care services for children and families is something that affects everyone.

So in wrapping it up, I will end with what is to come. I will bring in conversations with non-profits, supporters, counselors, marketers, etc., for insight on mental health, our organization, events and what we are doing in our community to break the stigma and how we all can work together. Some will be serious, some will be fun, and I know in my heart it will be inspiring. So I hope you continue to read and maybe even share. Something to keep in mind.

Colbi Twiss

This is for everyone 

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