Positioning is one of those marketing terms that describes how you stack up to the competition. While the notion of competition is often a bit foreign in the nonprofit world, I’d like to assert that competition is good for the community.
Competition in the for-profit world has always driven companies to create better and better products in the interest of creating an edge for increasing sales. This drive to be the best has always benefited the consumer with faster, lighter, smaller/bigger, cheaper, and often exceptional products. In the nonprofit world, this concept of competition can greatly benefit the community as well.
However, it is important to look at it from the right perspective. Using the proper lens to view this concept of competition with an awareness of the nuance can provide a great boon to the community, but only if it is harnessed properly.
Positioning your organization against others in your field of expertise allows you to determine where your strengths lie. It forces an organization to determine where there may be service overlap in the community. It serves to examine what programs are profitable (another for-profit term that has use in the nonprofit world) and effective in order to devote resources to those programs that offer the greatest impact. When you take a close look at similar organizations and then compare them to yours, you take the first step towards improving your own efficiency.
Once identified, an important step is to work to capitalize on those differences. You should improve your programs (or eliminate them) with an eye towards becoming unique in the community. These distinct differences then become key elements that you should highlight in all your marketing communications.
When donors look to fund an organization, they not only look for success and positive impact, they also want to know what makes you special, because they often identify emotionally with discrete program variations. Therefore, your best bet for improving your brand is to celebrate these differences. Most importantly, when there is a clear delineation between your organization and others, there exists a greater opportunity for collaboration, which collectively reduces competition between those very organizations.
As a result, the community benefits with more collaborative organizations and better focused programs. And that after all, is what it is all about, right?