They say “riches are in the niches.” But how far should your marketing or fundraising agency go with your niche?

The nonprofit sector is a mammoth-sized segment of the American economy.

“Approximately 1.41 million nonprofits were registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2013, an increase of 2.8 percent from 2003. The nonprofit sector contributed an estimated $905.9 billion to the US economy in 2013, composing 5.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).” – Urban Institute’s “The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2015”

To be a marketing agency for nonprofits – or a marketing agency with a nonprofit vertical – is like trying to eat the entire prehistoric pachyderm in one bite. It just doesn’t work!

If you want to ramp up your marketing and fundraising firm’s success, go deeper into your nonprofit niche. Go “micro-niche.”

How to “micro-niche” Your Way to More High Quality Nonprofit Clients

There are two ways that I know to “micro-niche” your way into the nonprofit ecosystem: 1. Organization Type, and 2.) Specialty.

Organization Type or Cause

Not all nonprofits are created equal. Neither are they created to do the same things.

Of course, there are all kinds of legal classifications for nonprofits that go well beyond the typical 501 (c) 3 tax exempt status. In fact, there are at least 27 ways the IRS classifies not-for-profit organizations! (To see them all, head to this informative article.)

You might find the IRS categories a sufficient way to zero in on your target organizations, but I find the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) Classification System to be much more useful as a vendor who’s trying to solve problems for my nonprofit clients.

The NTEE Classification System

The NTEE system classifies nonprofits by their cause rather than their societal function, which is how the IRS largely views nonprofits. Here’s a quick, abridged version of the NTEE system. You can see the NTEE system unabridged here.

  • A Arts, Culture, and Humanities
    • A01 Alliance/Advocacy Organizations
    • A02 Management & Technical Assistance
    • A03 Professional Societies & Associations
    • A05 Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis
    • A11 Single Organization Support
    • A12 Fundraising and/or Fund Distribution
    • A19 Nonmonetary Support N.E.C.*
  • A20 Arts, Cultural Organizations—Multipurpose
    • A23 Cultural/Ethnic Awareness
    • A25 Arts Education/Schools
    • A26 Arts Council/Agency
  • A30 Media, Communications Organizations
    • A31 Film, Video
    • A32 Television
    • A33 Printing, Publishing
    • A34 Radio

This Dewey Decimal-like way of classifying nonprofit organizations makes your sales and marketing process that much easier.

So instead of being a jack-of-all-trades fundraising guru, you could be a fundraising consultant for religious youth development programs (NTEE #O50 Youth Development Programs). That’s way more specific… And lucrative.

A quick, filtered search for Christian summer camps on pulled up over 44 pages of results just now!

The fundraising needs of a Christian summer camp is vastly different than that of a political think tank. So when you position yourself as the authority in Christian summer camp fundraising, you’ll find more summer camp leaders who’ll find you, hire you, and agree to your consulting fees.

But if you do everything from membership renewal strategies to humane society campaigns, you’re going to create confusion among your audiences about what you do and suspicion about your prices.

Method or Specialty

Another great way to micro niche your way into the nonprofit world is to anchor your brand’s authority in a narrow method or specialty.

Just this morning, I received an email from a marketing agency who specializes in video animations – but they also do digital marketing, direct mail marketing, email marketing, fundraising, copywriting, website development, and more.

Now, it’s possible that they, in fact, do all of those things. But judging by the clunky, early 2000’s feel of their website, I doubt it.

And the litany of services they were offering me also makes me doubt very much that they know how to help me or my clients reach our goals.

On the other hand, I write for a fundraising consultancy firm that specializes in asset-based gift cultivation and legacy gifts.

The clients these guys consult for are among the top of the nonprofit pyramid of success. Why?

You trust their brand promise because their specialty is so precise.

Examples of Specialty Niches

  • Video Marketing & Fundraising
  • Major Gift Fundraising & Coaching
  • Direct Mail
  • Digital Marketing
  • Inbound & Content Marketing
  • Email Fundraising & Online Giving
  • Copywriting
  • Data Services, Maintenance, & Modeling

Of course, there are all kinds of ways to “micro-niche” into the nonprofit sector. Especially if you begin combining the niches of organization type and specialty into unique combinations.

For example, you could be an email marketing master for cultural museums. But you get the point.

Generate more leads. Get better clients. “Micro-niche.”