Communication and Marketing in Non-Profit Organizations: Case Study of the Hermann-Gmeiner-Academy

Authors: Lisa Fritzsche, Theresa Musiol, Median Paden, Lisa Waltle


Marketing and communication are important for various companies and organizations in order to advertise their products and services for their target group and to fulfill their organizational objectives. This is also true for non-profit organizations (NPOs), but communication in their case is also influenced by their unique circumstances and financial constraints (Wölfle, 2011).

In cooperation with the Hermann-Gmeiner-Academy (HGA), the project team of the study programme Non-Profit, Social and Healthcare Management has examined this particularities in the communication of NPOs based on the website of the HGA, and has subsequently identified areas for improvement. The main focus of this study are the programmes for staff development, which the HGA offers for employees of SOS children's villages, but also for other companies and organizations.

The project team conducted experimental research to examine the communication of the HGA. To do so, a new version of the website was developed, which included shortened and restructured texts and a service box that outlines the key facts of the programmes. In the new version of the website, the project team focused on clearly addressing the target group and highlighting the added value of the programme. These modifications were based on insights gained in a literature review on the one hand, and interviews with employees and potential customers of the programme on the other hand.

This newly developed website was subsequently compared with the existing webpage by randomly assigning one of the versions to a person, who then answered a questionnaire that included a rating of both the website and the programme, and questions to test the person's knowledge of the programme. The participants of the survey were recruited in the surroundings of the project team and have not participated in one of the programmes of the HGA before, in order to simulate the circumstances of potential customers. 

The results of the survey showed that the offer of the HGA was perceived as attractive by the participants, and this rating could not be significantly improved by adapting the website. Regardless of the version of the website, the sample displayed a high willingness to participate in the programme. However, there was a significant difference between the two groups in regard to their knowledge about the programme. By pruning and restructuring the programme description and by adding a summary of the programme at the very beginning of the website, more participants were able to correctly answer questions about the target group, content, duration, and name of the programme.

Figure 1: comparison of the share of correct answers to the questions between the two versions of the website

With the results of the research and a complementary literature review, the project team has developed potential areas of improvement for the project partner. One of the results is, that the key characteristics of the programmes could be communicated more clearly on the website, for example by summarizing the most important points in a box. This also serves as an important basis for decision-making for potential customers (Heck et al, 2017). The communication of the HGA can further be improved be adapting to current trends in the sector. NPOs have increasingly diversified their communication to different channels, like social media, in order to reach their target group. In this regard, it is also important to present information not only in textual form, but also as info graphics or videos. This can also positively contribute to the understandability of the programmes (Scholz & Ternés, 2014).



Heck, D. W., Hilbig, B. E., & Moshagen, M. (2017). From information processing to decisions: Formalizing and comparing psychologically plausible choice models. Cognitive Psychology, 96, 26-40.

Scholz A., & Ternès A. (2014). Nonprofit-Marketing. In: A. Ternès, & I. Towers (Hrsg.), Internationale Trends in der Markenkommunikation. Springer Gabler.

Wölfle T. (2011). Strategy Maps in Nonprofit-Organisationen Kommunikation und Implementierung einer Organisationsstrategie. In: A. Heilmair, Y. Russ, H. Sturm, T. Zitzmann (Hrsg.), Perspektiven des Verbandsmanagements. Springer Gabler.

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