Integrated marketing communications. Sounds like long-winded business jargon, right? Maybe, but it’s a concept that many for-profit marketers live by, and your nonprofit should too.

In simplest terms, integrated marketing communications, which we’ll call IMC, means that all of your communication tools work seamlessly together to create a consistent image and message. These tools include social media, direct marketing, advertisements, public relations and everything in between.

So how is this relevant to your nonprofit organization?

Nonprofits can greatly benefit from adopting many business practices. If your organization is struggling to engage volunteers and donors, it may be helpful to take a look at the messages you’re sending out and whether your marketing tools are working together or against one another.

Refine Your Brand Identity

If you have a name, logo, design and mission, plus you provide some sort of product or service, you are a brand; with a brand comes a brand identity.

Your brand identity has to do with how your target audience, donors or volunteers associate your brand in relation to others. This also encompasses your audience’s awareness and knowledge of your nonprofit.

When you exercise IMC and have a consistent image across all platforms, people begin to recognize your identity and associate it with the specific good that you do.

Avoid Duplicate Messages

Nonprofits must see these marketing efforts in the eyes of users—as one big, endless flow of information from many indistinguishable sources.

When your organization allows all of its communication tools to operate too autonomously, they can send out contradictory messages or run into duplication. Let’s be clear—sending out a consistent and reliable message is the goal, but each tool you use should craft and deliver this message in a way that engages your audience in different ways.

Take the Share a Coke campaign, for example. Coca-Cola used Twitter hashtags, Facebook pages, interactive kiosks, TV ads, email marketing, YouTube videos—you name it. Of course, your NPO likely doesn’t have a multi-million dollar marketing budget, but the message in this campaign was clear and consistent across all of these media channels.

And anyway, according to a recent survey by Convio, organization size and integrated marketing sophistication do not correlate, so the size of your nonprofit does not mean you can’t have successful IMC.

Increase Your Return

ROI, or return on investment, is yet another jargon term that we have all heard from the business world. Regardless, it’s probably one of the most important factors in an organization’s success. Obviously, if you are going to invest time and money into a marketing campaign, you want to see a high return both in terms of money and awareness of your cause.

If done right, integrated marketing does better than the sum of its parts, and the proof is in the numbers. In a 2009 campaign, the American Red Cross achieved an 11:1 ROI and increased the average donor gifts by 43 percent with an integrated campaign. Cool, huh?

Get Started

After you have crafted your organization’s message and the image you want to be associated with your brand, start by choosing a small campaign to pilot integration, such as your next seminar, webinar or networking event.

Formulate different ways to deliver your message and create a content calendar for the duration of this campaign. This allows you to keep track of duplication or contradiction, as well as assign when and through what channels to launch your campaign.

Measuring the success of integrating your marketing tools can be as simple as seeing increases in attendance, click-through rates or social media interactions. If you want to get fancy, use a central CRM tool to manage your content and get some end-of-month insights on your audience interactions. With practice, you can soon integrate your communications like a pro for your next big fundraiser or donor cultivation event.

Integrated marketing communications seems like a complex practice for large business with large budgets to make these large campaigns happen. However, as we saw, size does not matter, and your nonprofit can start as small as sending emails and Facebook posts that collaborate on a message. So tell us, has your organization ever launched an integrated marketing campaign?