Nothing's more important now than ensuring your organization's leaders get that cutting marketing back now is a BAD MOVE! No program succeeds without participants; no service lasts without users; few organizations stay healthy without a strong donor and volunteer base -- and marketing is the way that these groups are reached, engaged, retained and motivated to act.
Challenge your organization's leaders NOW if they're shying away from investing in marketing. If they do, your nonprofit will really suffer longterm. That's what you have to point out -- as diplomatically as possible. And far better than just talking about it, you have to prove it.
Rather than taking a defensive position when faced with budget cuts, proactively respond to your leadership's challenges with either or both of these proposals:
- Leave our budget untouched, and we will increase X by X in the next fiscal year. Even better, if you will increase our budget by X percent, we'll increase X by an additional X percent.
- Let the marketing and communications team work with the current budget for the next two years, and we'll deliver an X percent increase in revenues (donor and/or earned income) in that time.
But to make good on your promise, you have to craft a plan tying marketing work directly your goals, and track the impact of every effort before, during and after the work to enable ongoing course correction. Otherwise, you might as well throw your marketing resources out the door.
Arm yourself with as many hard stats and success stories as you can. Talk about what colleague and competitive organizations are doing, and what you'll lose if your organization retreats now. Show your case, always more effective than telling it. But do it now, proactively. It's the only way to prove the value your efforts contribute to your organization.
Tracking should include:
Direct Marketing (online and mail):
- Response rate.
- Dollars earned per dollar spent (return on investment, or ROI).
- Development of media relationships.
- Coverage by media type (newspaper, magazine, Web, broadcast).
- Actions that result: Increase in donations, volunteers, new program participants
- Number of speaking engagements and presentations (and audience count and feedback).
If you're not tracking, or not tracking well, here are some tips to get started:
- Build definition of measurable objectives into your marketing plan
- Reinforce your colleagues' understanding of the value of marketing, and its support for your work by including them in your planning process. That's the best way to ensure expectations are clear and establish a broad understanding of how marketing contributes to programmatic and organizational success. It'll never work if you're the only marketing cheerleader.
- Track on an ongoing basis, to enable quick course correction, rather than waiting till the end of a campaign.
- Harvest the low-hanging fruit -- the tracking data that's inexpensive and easy to get and understand. Analytics your Web site, blogs, e-newsletters and mobile phone campaigns is a great way to start. Dive into Google Analytics today if you're not already analyzing these channels. Lots to learn, for free.
But readers, whatever you do, don't just give in to a proposed budget cut for your department. Consider the options with as much creativity as you bring to your marketing work. Then shape your strategy and come back with a creative solution that will let you and your colleagues continue to build the bottom line necessary to carry out your mission.
About the Author
Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing and communications. As President of Nancy Schwartz & Company (http://www.nancyschwartz.com/), Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to organizations as varied as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Center for Asian American Media, and Wake County (NC) Health Services.
Subscribe to her free e-newsletter "Getting Attention", (http://www.nancyschwartz.com/getting_attention.html) and read her blog at http://www.gettingattention.org/ for more insights, ideas and great tips on attracting the attention your organization deserves.