Because everyone is familiar with the “concept” of marketing, it’s easy to arrive at an incomplete or inaccurate view of what it is, how to use it, when to use it and what it can do to help you grow.

Is your nonprofit guilty of myopic marketing?

If so, you’re missing opportunities to deepen relationships, increase giving and build your reputation because of it.

To help you pressure test your current definition of what marketing really is, I’d like to share with you what it is NOT.

Marketing is not a position.

Promoting your organization, sharing your vision, engaging with your community. This is not something “someone” does. It’s not a department. It’s not something you insource or outsource.

Ever heard the saying, “Everyone’s a marketer?” If so, it was likely delivered by a marketing person with a heavy dose of sarcasm as he or she lamented about a renegade sales person or an executive who had negative feedback on a campaign or piece of collateral. While I wouldn’t suggest you provide your staff with Adobe’s creative suite and have everyone produce their own key messages and materials, I do think you need everyone in your organization equipped and empowered to spread your message. Everyone on your team needs to understand that marketing is part of their job description.

Marketing is not a special event.

It’s time for your annual fundraiser. Or maybe it’s your 25th anniversary. These types of events are obviously worthy of a lot of attention and are critically important to your organization. But don’t allow your view of marketing to be limited to special events. Marketing is something that occurs 365 days a year. You must consistently share your message, promote your impact, stay relevant and top of mind to donors, volunteers, media, clients, etc. True marketing is about relationships, not just throwing a good party or celebrating a milestone.

Marketing is not a logo.

Nor is it a website. Or a brochure. Visually expressing your brand is important, and yes you’ll need an effective logo, brochure, website, etc. But you need more than that. They say hope is not a strategy. Well, neither is brand. Many organizations view tangible brand assets as marketing’s end game. But they aren’t. Brand reflects your broader marketing strategy. It facilitates effective communication. In a world where consumers actively seek relationships with brands, you absolutely have to get yours right. But don’t stop there when you define marketing. What are your business goals? How will you reach your stakeholders? What are your barriers to success? How can you improve the services you provide? What new services should you offer? Marketing plays a central role in all of this.

Marketing is not fundraising.

While smart marketing is critical to driving donations, don’t pigeonhole marketing’s utility as only a fundraising function. The way you communicate and engage volunteers and influencers is just as important. As is making sure the people you want to help are aware of your organization and how they can access your services. Marketing has lots of important responsibilities. One of those is facilitating fundraising. Don’t ignore the rest.

Marketing is not an expense.

If you view marketing as an overhead cost, you are missing the boat. Marketing is key to your growth, or even keeping your doors open. Money spent wisely in marketing leads to financial and business returns. It’s an investment. For profit and nonprofit organizations alike make this mistake all the time, treating marketing as a cost center instead of a revenue driver. It can be hard in the nonprofit environment for organizations to invest in marketing because of the typical categorization as an operational cost. But at the very least, your mindset should be to view marketing as a growth opportunity and not just as overhead.

Marketing is not optional.

Most nonprofit leaders cringe when they hear the word marketing. They didn’t get into this space to sell; they want to make a difference. The tough reality is that in order to make a difference, your organization must be positioned well. There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in this country today. Many of them will not grow their causes. Many will fail. If you want to survive the cut, you have to break through the clutter. You have to be visible. Your impact has to be clear. And there’s a lot of competition out there. As a result, you must spend significant time, and some money, on marketing.

How did your earlier definition hold up? Does your organization see marketing’s full potential?

This article was originally published at Currents a blog by Good.Must.Grow.