October 1, 2014

We’ve noticed that there are a number of similarities in the approach between conducting marketing research for businesses and conducting marketing research for not-for-profit organizations. Business might be concerned with the purchase decision for a new product, while non-profit might be concerned with the decision to contribute time or financial resources to a cause, but the processes at play are not really all that different.

Market research often focuses on the many touchpoints between marketing and research in the for-profit world. One way of describing a traditional marketing decision process is Awareness -> Interest -> Desire -> Action. Consumers with a need or wish to purchase a particular product or service typically move from an initial awareness of a product, to an interest in the product, to a desire or preference for one product over others, before finally taking action and making the purchase. Market research can evaluate and measure consumers’ awareness, attitudes, opinions, and behaviours at any of these points.

A similar decision process, with similar research touchpoints, exists for not-for-profit causes. This may include organizations devoted to the arts, health, conservation, sport, animal rights, or many others. The model here might be described as Awareness -> Understanding -> Action. Supporters initially become aware of the importance of a cause for a variety of reasons. This is followed by a greater understanding of the cause and its importance, which may involve empathy for those involved in the cause. The final stage is a decision to support the cause in some manner (often including volunteering their time or making financial contributions).

A Practical Example
NRG was recently involved in a study where we asked Canadians about the impact of recent media attention regarding depression and other mood disorders. Participants indicated that media coverage increased their awareness of depression, as well as their understanding and empathy toward people living with depression. Participants also indicated that the recent media coverage might prompt them to take action in some way, whether it be a donation of time or money to an organization devoted to depression or mental health, or whether it might be a heightened willingness to speak openly and provide support to people in their lives with depression. In all, the media coverage spurred movement within the decision model on some level for three-quarters of participants.

The conclusion for us is that the tools we use as researchers can be applied to this marketing concept which indicates people move through a process on the way from awareness to action, whether it is in the for-profit or the not-for-profit sphere.

Dr. Brian Owen

CEO and Chairman