June 07, 2016

4 Things Corporate Brands Can Learn from Non-Profits

Most ad agencies get the chance to work with both Fortune 500 corporations and small, often local, non-profit organizations. This diversity of work is part of what makes a career in marketing so unpredictable — and so fulfilling. At Superhuman, we’ve spent a fair amount of time partnering up with both types of clients, and we’ve noticed that non-profits have assets that corporate brands can learn from, emulate and ultimately use to strengthen their culture. Here are the biggest lessons corporate teams can learn from non-profits.

1. A Strong Central Mission is Everything

When corporate brands are built on a strong mission, it’s incredibly valuable. For example, meaningful (mission-driven) brands gain 46% more share of wallet than non-meaningful brands and outperform them in the stock market by 133%. Despite those compelling advantages, some of the biggest brands in the world still haven’t made their larger mission clear. For a non-profit, having a strong mission statement can be the difference between life and death. Without one, it’s impossible for a non-profit to get funding, measure their impact or retain talent. Mission-driven marketing has really caught fire in the corporate world in the last ten years or so, but there’s still a lot that corporate team members could learn from non-profit teams.

2.  This Central Mission Aligns Your Marketing & Excites Your Team

Once this vision is in place, it’s easier to align every part of your business to promote a central goal. No longer are you trying to create segmented messaging that goes after many goals in different ways, but instead you’re trying to make every part of your infrastructure work as hard as it can for you. This makes non-profits more efficient, and it often leads to more passionate, elegant creative work and clearer messaging. We’ve also noticed that the employees at non-profits benefit from this high level of purpose and clarity, and this creates a natural sense of energy and excitement. If you’re a corporate brand, you can reap the same benefits from taking the time to focus your strategy on one big, motivating mission and aligning your products and team against it.

3. Non-Profits’ Sense of Purpose Leads to Better Work/Life Balance

In advertising or corporate marketing, it can be hard to turn off at the end of the day. There’s always a lightbulb idea just around the corner, or a better solution to be found if you spend an extra two hours after dinner at your desk. This tendency to want to work 24/7 might be a subconscious attempt to find purpose in your work. At a non-profit, people implicitly feel like they’re doing something meaningful, and this makes it easier to turn off after a long day of hard work. After all, they know just what they’ll be trying to achieve once they hit their desk the next day.

4. Being Scrappy Can Make Non-Profits More Creative

Non-profits don’t have large marketing budgets to work with, and they rarely have a whole fleet of specialized agencies at their beck and call. Instead, they have to do as much as possible with tiny budgets, and make sure that their marketing work is as good as it can be. Raising awareness with limited resources may seem like an impossible challenge, but we’ve noticed some surprising benefits. For one, the scrappiness of non-profit budgets often makes their teams think outside the box, try more experimental ideas and create more lo-fi campaigns that, ultimately, come off as more heartfelt and authentic.

From an agency perspective, getting to jump in on non-profit, sometimes pro-bono work is usually very exciting for designers, writers and strategists. After all, they get to develop original, incredibly creative work that they will likely get to see in their own community. We know that at Superhuman, some of our most memorable and impactful projects have been with non-profit organizations.

Overall, the way corporate brands market themselves is getting more similar to non-profit marketing every day. Everything is about having a central mission, and that’s a good thing. That said, we’re always learning new things from the energy and passion of our non-profit clients, and we wanted to share what we’ve noticed with you. Let us know if you have any observations of your own!

Van Horgen

One Response

  1. DiceView.com says:

    I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. This sort of clever work and reporting! Keep up the good works.

More from the Blog


4 Questions with Our New Strategist, Libby Kapsner

Tell us about your background in advertising. I spent four years at Indiana University studying Advertising / PR as well as psychology. I had…

Read More


Behind Our New Website

As an agency, nothing is easier to forget about than your own website. Once you’re busy, you can feel like a chef who cooks…

Read More


3 Questions with Ian Traas, Senior Copywriter

At Superhuman, our favorite copywriters work hard to understand a client’s audience and are eager to dig into communications challenges of all sizes. We…

Read More