Optimize Your Nonprofit Marketing Budget

Over the last 15 years, the approach to a nonprofit marketing budget has evolved significantly. Previously, the focus was on leveraging major donors for awareness, leading to fairly consistent marketing expenditures. Nowadays, the proliferation of digital marketing and technology requires a more dynamic and strategic allocation of the nonprofit marketing budget to stand out and connect with potential donors among the constant stream of new initiatives and campaigns.

The shift in marketing strategies isn’t all bad, though. As a nonprofit, a more targeted approach can actually be more reliable than word-of-mouth marketing by major donors to their networks. The problem is deciding how to budget your resources. With a limited amount of money and unlimited opportunities to spend, you have to make some tough calls.

If you’re struggling to figure out where you should spend your marketing budget, and how to verify your choices, we can help. Here are a few tips to consider before you enter your payment info.

Choose Marketing Spends Based on Goals

To find smart marketing spends for your nonprofit, you first have to decide what your goals are. Be as specific as possible — no goal is too small to include! List everything from your average email open rate to your total monthly social posts to your yearly fundraising goal. The purpose is not to overwhelm your team, but to understand your priorities. When your vision for the next year is crystal clear, you can quickly identify what marketing spends are right for you.

For example, if your top priority is to increase content marketing by 2 blogs per week, your smartest marketing spend might be hiring a content producer or PR partner. On the other hand, if your main goal is to work more efficiently as a team (and guarantee no one has to work the weekend before Giving Tuesday) your smartest spend is a resource that improves your capacity as a team. That could be a project management tool or a traffic manager.

Try to develop goals that are specific to your team (and your budget). Strive for more than the end-of-year fundraising goal. Better still, have goals that you can track quarterly so you can revisit your budget and make adjustments as needed.

Put Together the Right Marketing Budget

Some marketing spends are a given. Direct mail, for example, is reliable, predictable and relatively safe. As you craft your budget, it’s smart to include quite a few of these reliable marketing spends to reach the goals you’ve put together. We want to encourage you to make sure your entire marketing budget isn’t safe bets.

Leave some room for creative ideas from your team, new campaigns and channels you haven’t explored yet. The trick to growing fundraising is constantly meeting potential new donors. The more people who are aware of your nonprofit, the more opportunities you have to convert into donors. But it’s difficult to grow your top-of-the-funnel reach when you utilize the same tactics year over year.

Leave space in your budget for a risk. If you’ve never used video before, add a line item to create two videos this year. They don’t have to be big productions (most smartphones offer exceptional quality), just something new for your nonprofit to try. By adding new channels to your awareness strategy, you can reach new people or tell different parts of your story that often get ignored in your traditional communications asking for donations. Then you can turn that new traffic into potential donors, and recurring donors.

Bundle Your Marketing Spends

Often, companies bundle their products as a way to save money for nonprofits. In the best case scenario, both sides win. The company gets more business and you save a percentage of your budget for other initiatives.

Unfortunately, many organizations don’t think to bundle their marketing spends because they don’t need all the features at the time of purchase. For example, maybe you purchased a project management tool that also offered an email marketing platform. At the time, you were using a free email service and didn’t need to spend the extra money. Now, a year later, your contact list is much bigger and you need a paid solution. Instead of going back to your project management company, your team starts looking for a new email platform. Perhaps they weren’t aware of the previous deal.

Over time, you’re spending top tier prices for a bunch of solution. Instead, analyze ways you can streamline your marketing spends. Take an inventory of what tools you use on a daily basis, what other products those companies offer and what other tools you might want to buy in the future. By streamlining your spending, you can save yourself money to take on those new marketing campaigns.

Formalize Campaign Ideas

Planning is an underrated strategy for saving money. It’s especially important when you’re planning marketing campaigns. Inevitably, something will come up that you didn’t think about. Maybe you forgot to purchase all the design assets necessary to create the perfect email campaign. Or maybe you have to put a rush on your direct mail pieces because you couldn’t pull the right information in time. It happens to everyone. But these small details add up to a lot of extra marketing spends.

Don’t waste your resources on extra fees. Spend some time with your team focusing on every detail of your potential campaigns for the year. Don’t just call it “Spring campaign” and add a round number in your budget column. Make a detailed list of every piece you’ll need to execute all your marketing campaigns for the year so you don’t make avoidable marketing spends. It will take extra time in the planning stages, but the money you save for other line items will be worth it.

Don’t Forget Time Spent

The final piece to consider, and one that is a tremendous cost if you overspend, is your team’s time. Burnout in nonprofits is a very real obstacle. Losing a valued team member, finding a new person and training them to your standards is a high cost that can be avoided with the right budget and plan.

Smart marketing spends are those that keep your team efficient and working on the things they’re talented at. If you can spend a little extra money automating the smaller tasks that take up one employee’s entire day, it’s worth it. Not only will that person’s job satisfaction increase, but you can use their skills for something more impactful. Remember to always think about the value of time when you’re considering tools that may be expensive. A single upfront cost is worth it if it means that the people at your organization can do more of the good they’ve always been passionate about.

Go Further with Your Digital Fundraising Strategy

If you want to learn more about how to create a powerful, cost-effective digital fundraising strategy, check out our guide. You’ll learn how to build a comprehensive campaign that uses email, social and much more.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

Take a self-guided tour of Virtuous, where you can explore the platform at your own pace and see if Virtuous is right for you. 

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

The Responsive Maturity Model
5 Steps to More Personalized Donor Experiences
Get Responsive Fundraising Tips
Get updates delivered directly to your inbox.
Actionable tips and insights for personalizing donor engagement with responsive fundraising.
The Ultimate Guide To Nonprofit Marketing Automation

The Ultimate Guide To Nonprofit Marketing Automation

This guide to nonprofit marketing automation will walk you through how powerful automation can help you generate more generosity while reducing manual work.
3 Easy Automation Workflows for Nonprofits

3 Easy Automation Workflows for Nonprofits

Discover 3 simple yet effective automation workflows to boost efficiency and impact in nonprofits.
The Power of Donor Stories

The Power of Donor Stories

Stories play an incredible role throughout our lives. We use storytelling to preserve our history, teach us right and wrong, help us explain complex topics, and inspire action. In fundraising,…

Grow generosity with Virtuous.

Virtuous is the responsive fundraising software platform proven to help nonprofit organizations increase generosity by serving all donors personally, no matter their gift size.

“Virtuous truly understands nonprofits and the importance of our mission. And their open access to data and built-in custom reports gave us access to the data we need.”
Todd Shinabarger
Chief Information Officer