Above all, the non-profit organization has an understood sentiment that they exist for a cause and can execute on their mission only through the generosity of others, like you. You know when a non-profit approaches you what they want — your dollars, volunteer hours or some type of advocacy. If they have a relevant audience, then their appeal is acceptable and at worst it is excused for a later time.
For-profit organizations exist for revenue growth. This isn’t to say that they don’t provide products or services that make the world a better place or that they don’t do any good — and it also isn’t to say that non-profits don’t pursue revenue growth. But the for-profit business model is primarily dependent on the sale of goods rather than the appeal of someone’s generosity. So their marketing campaigns typically focus on convincing you that what they have is good for you.
It is common now to blur the lines between non-profit and for-profit organizations. Many for-profit brands have a non-profit arm that elevates or reinforces the heart of their mission. If executed well, they end up serving each other. We also see the ongoing trend of cause marketing, where consumers of brands actually make a difference in their purchase because of a partnership between a for-profit brand and a non-profit cause. Yes, you can buy that drink, enjoy it, and contribute to water safety in Africa at the same time.
While marketing serves to grow brands, both non-profit and for-profit alike, there is an exciting strategic space that brings the two together. In that opportunity, the missions must remain distinct, the audience appeal authentic, and the outcome mutually beneficial. Cheers to the union between you.