Published: 1 November 2011

How to write a charity marketing plan

Keep your marketing plan brief, says Lasa's Zoe Amar. Here she explains what it should cover?

A good marketing plan is about more than when, where and how you’re going to implement your marketing strategy, although of course that’s important too. It’s also a way to communicate effectively what you’re going to do.

That last point is often overlooked. I’ve seen good marketing plans shelved because they are too long, too complex or poorly structured. Keep it brief and avoid too much jargon, and create appendices for anything that doesn’t need to be in the main body of the plan.

So here’s how to create your marketing plan:

  • Build on your marketing strategy

Your marketing plan should flow naturally from, and be consistent with, your strategy. You might want to begin by referring to your strategy and summarise the key points briefly. Marketing strategies and plans are often confused; to my mind, a strategy focuses on what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to get there, while a plan is more tactical and focused on the details of what you’re going to do and when. If you’ve created a strong marketing strategy, with a thorough analysis of your environment, target audience and positioning, then you’re well on your way to creating a good plan.

  • Set objectives

Whilst you might want to recap on the objectives from your strategy, you could consider setting some more detailed objectives specifically for your plan. Your objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed to when you want to achieve them by).

  • Use the marketing mix

Often referred to as "the 4 Ps", these are the basic, tactical elements of any marketing plan. I’m going to define them briefly:

  • Product is the physical entity and/or service that you’re selling.
  • Price is the perceived cost to your target audience of taking up your offer, and that includes time as well as money. You might even want to think about price in terms of social factors here – for example, if you are a bowel cancer charity your target audience may be embarrassed about describing their symptoms when they visit the doctors.
  • Place is the means by which you get your product or service to your target audience in the right place and at the right time. It is a slightly confusing term and it’s easier to think of it in terms of distribution, or intermediaries, eg if your charity offers training then your trainers are a key part of place.
  • Promotion includes all the tools available to promote your charity’s offering. The main types of promotion are direct marketing, PR, sales promotions, personal selling and advertising. You might want to consider individual tools such as social media, digital advertising and word of mouth in more detail here. 
  • Set out actions and timescales

You know the drill – who’s going to do what, and when.

  • Set out the budgets involved

Obviously you’ll want to work closely with your finance department here, so naturally it’s good practice to be as detailed and thorough as possible with the information you give them.

  • Evaluation

Has your plan been a success? To judge this, include metrics that measure what you are trying to achieve, whether it is income, press mentions, or stakeholder feedback. There is no hard and fast way to put together metrics; the priority is to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve, and ensure that your evaluation techniques measure that. 


Zoe Amar, director, Zoe Amar Digital

Zoe Amar is founder and director of Zoe Amar Digital, a charity marketing and digital communications consultancy who've worked with Action Aid, CAF, Crimestoppers and many other great charities. She also blogs for The Guardian. Zoe shares charity marketing resources over at www.zoeamar.com and @zoeamar