Magazine Feature / People

Marketing professor authors book for nonprofits

book coverAny marketing student knows about the “Four Ps.” Those are the essential elements that must be considered when designing a campaign: Price, Product, Promotion and Place. But few recognize that marketing a service provided by a nonprofit organization is very different than marketing a product, such as a pair of shoes.

John Burnett, professor of marketing at the Daniels College of Business and author of Nonprofit Marketing Best Practices (Wiley, 2007), understands the challenges nonprofits face — a lesson he learned the hard way.

Burnett’s expertise and dedication to the nonprofit marketing world comes from personal experience. In the late 1980s, he and his family participated in an international educational program in Germany. During that trip, his daughter Laura, then a college sophomore, was seriously injured in an auto accident and was comatose in a German hospital with a brain injury.

She required years of physical, occupational and cognitive therapy in order to return to a somewhat normal life.

“In talking with the hospitals and nonprofits, I realized that these organizations had little expertise in marketing, and no understanding of how to manage business crisis,” Burnett says.

He became deeply involved in hospitals as a volunteer and on boards of directors, contributing his marketing and crisis management knowledge to their ongoing activities and honing his understanding of their challenges.

Burnett’s book grew out of a half-day workshop he delivers to nonprofits throughout the country. Nonprofit Marketing Best Practices is a hands-on guide for organizations on how to market “intangibles,” and how to stand out among a field of organizations competing for funding, programs and volunteers.

Burnett specifically designed it to be an easy and affordable handbook for organizations. 

“Most nonprofits are so consumed by day-to-day operations and fundraising that they don’t have much time for business operations,” he says. “I want to encourage good people to get engaged in the nonprofit sector and help them with business skills.”

In addition to his workshops, Burnett has worked with the Boys Club of America, the American Red Cross, Lubbock General Hospital, the National Parks Service, the Denver Zoo and Easter Seals. 

He has served as the president of the board of directors of the Brain Injury Association of Colorado and is an active volunteer with his wife, Nancy.

“Our volunteer service became a way for us to creatively deal with the reality of our lives,” says Nancy. “This is part of the way we have tried to repay our communities for the service and help we have received through the years.”

“We will never be glad Laura had this accident,” says Nancy. “But we can try to make lemonade with the lemons we’ve been served.”

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