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Professor: Business Approach Helps Nonprofit Messaging

Alan Andreasen

Alan Andreasen, a professor of marketing in the McDonough School of Business, has helped a number of nonprofit groups, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the American Red Cross use social marketing.

June 20, 2011 – A Georgetown professor believes that nonprofits are doing a better job promoting themselves because of the more business-like approach many are taking to communicate their messages.

Alan Andreasen, a McDonough School of Business professor of marketing, says one of the “sea changes” in the nonprofit sector is the effort to hire more people with management backgrounds, making for better-run organizations and clearer messages to the masses.

“The better ones have moved from this sort of notion of ‘let’s do an advertising campaign’ … to doing things more creatively, more multifaceted than just campaign plans,” he says.

Changing Mindsets

Andreasen, who teaches courses in social marketing, social enterprise and nonprofit marketing, noted that nonprofit groups and similar organizations he advises tend to start out with the wrong approach.

“A lot of the nonprofits and social programs that I get to talk to often think that marketing is just advertising and flashy promotional programs,” he says. “The problem with an advertising approach is that it sort of stems from a mindset in the organization that we have the truth and we know what people ought to do.”

Social Marketing

Andreasen became interested social marketing in the 1970s and 1980s in Southeast Asia, helping doctors make parents aware of steps to keep children from dying of measles and diarrhea.

“I focused on the nonprofit world and what’s come to be called social marketing,” he says, “which is the application of marketing ideas to get people to adopt behaviors that either good for them or socially good.”

The professor has written several books on social marketing, including the textbook Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations, 7th Edition (Prentice Hall, 2008) and Social Market in the 21st Century (Sage Publications, 2006).

Leading Role

Andreasen also has consulted in the field for the World Bank, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the American Red Cross, World Animal Forum and other entities.

Andreasen believes Georgetown can play a leading role in developing training, marketing skills and leadership for the nonprofit sector, especially with the number of agencies with offices in the region.

“It’s not a major thing in a business school, but for an organization – a business school – that’s in Washington, D.C. … that’s kind of a nice match,” he says.

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