How to build and spend a nonprofit marketing budget when you have none: Part 1

Nonprofit Marketing March 1, 2017 By Kevin Wolfe, Michelle Steed, Ed Lord

This is part one of a two-part, how-to article on digital marketing for nonprofits.

Despite what you may hear from the nay-sayers, we truly are in the golden age of marketing. And that applies to nonprofits just as much as it applies to for-profits. For all of us, there have been many changes as we have integrated digital into our marketing plans. But one thing hasn’t changed—the marketing budget hasn’t increased. Advertising spends might be smaller today, but there are many organizations that are having amazing results in marketing digitally. We spoke with Michelle Steed, Vice President of Client Success and Ed Lord, Chief Strategy Officer at DonorDrive about how nonprofits can be most effective with their marketing today.

How to build a marketing budget when you have none

For many organizations there’s minimal money for advertising. And if there’s any money there, it’s likely to be cut from the budget first. As Michelle notes: “Most organizations don’t have much of a budget for marketing, period. They’re putting their money to their mission and don’t have the luxury of that line item.” Fortunately there are two ways you can build a marketing budget without having the money coming from within.

Getting your corporate partners to pay

Sponsoring your event isn’t all that a corporate partner can do for you. They can also help foot the bill for your advertising. There are two ways to go about doing this. One is to make advertising dollars part of your sponsorship package. The other is to get your partner to give you space in their advertising. Michelle notes that sponsorship money can have strings attached. “There are organizations faced with the reality that some of their marketing spend will be driven by partner expectations. So how you spend these dollars may be dictated by recognizing that partner, if that’s built into your package. Fortunately not every partner is looking for that.”

“Your partner already has everything in place to piggyback your cause on their advertising.”

Michelle sees that the second option of sharing space has its advantages: “If a sponsor comes in because they want to be associated with your mission, they think it’s beneficial to their brand. So it benefits them to use your mission in their advertising. Your partner already has everything in place to piggyback your cause on their advertising.” Your corporate partner benefits from this as much as you do. Michelle feels that most organizations already have partners willing to do more: “Leverage the relationships you already have and try to maximize them.”

Google Ad Grants: $120,000 annually in free money

Many organizations are not aware that Google offers $10,000 a month in Google Ad Grants for search advertising to each qualified nonprofit. If there’s no internal marketing budget, this is a great way to to get free Google Adword advertising to increase awareness, recruit participants and drive donations. Many organization that have been recipients of Google Ad Grants have had amazing success stories, like DonorDrive client Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Michelle sees these as a no-brainer: “If you can get that get Google Ad Grants and you can be smart about using them: awesome. Take advantage of something like that because it’s a gift.”

“Global Cloud was able to more than double the spend towards our allocated Google budget, as well as get our cost-per-click at a cheaper rate. Immediately we saw an increase in donations.”

Like any grant, a Google Ad Grant requires your organization is a 501(c)(3) and that you go through an application process. The organizations that have been the most effective with their Google grants have invested the necessary time to create and manage the campaigns, as well as invested in expertise at bidding and measurement of Google Ad Words success. Some organizations make the investment of having a staffer certified in both Google Ad Words and Google Analytics. Other organizations enlist outside help to manage their program for them. CMN Hospitals managed their program internally the first year and then had Global Cloud (DonorDrive’s parent company) manage their Ad Grant program. Nick Ward, Vice President of Digital Marketing at CMN Hospitals has been happy with the expertise that Global Cloud provides: “Frankly the results were dramatic. Global Cloud was able to more than double the spend towards our allocated Google budget, as well as get our cost-per-click at a cheaper rate. Immediately we saw an increase in donations.”

Where to advertise.

Media choice is rampant today. As Ed notes: “Be aware that your audience is more fragmented by all the options available. For example, terrestrial radio has been supplanted by satellite radio, Spotify and the iPod on their phone. These listeners have a broader choice and you must find the channels to reach them where they are.”

The channels they are a-changing.

The biggest change in marketing is as it drifts from more physical mediums, like newspapers and billboards that are geography-based, to virtual mediums like social and search that are always available in the phone in their hand. Many organizations are reporting that traditional local mass media they’ve depended on in the past (like newspaper, radio and television) haven’t been performing well for them. If your local traditional outlets are giving you free space or time, by all means take advantage of it. Even push these media partners to play a bigger role by interviewing you about an event or campaign for the news in order to get a little extra mileage. But if you’re paying for advertising, there may be digital options with better ROI. Michelle realizes the apprehension around digital marketing: “It’s still a new space for organizations. But now you can track success today see how effective things are. You can change on the fly, which is great. It’s something you couldn’t do with conventional media.”

Why search advertising excels

Search advertising is a very powerful tool. Those seeing a targeted social ad are more likely to be interested in the content than the average viewer, but those using search are seeking your message since they’re actively looking for that content. They’re much more likely to engage. For example: someone who may be in your city for an extended business trip may be searching for a charity run that week. Or someone who supports organizations fighting a particular illness may be looking for similar nonprofits to support. People who find your organization through a search ad are much more likely to engage.

Which social medium?

You’ve probably tried many social channels and already know the ones you and your supporters are having the most success with. These are the same channels you should be advertising on. While it may seem logical that you'd reach a different audience on a different channel, you’ll do better to capitalize on your organic success by promoting on that same channel. Here’s a brief overview of the big social channels for advertising:

  • Twitter advertising includes sponsored tweets and ads. Generally a good value, Twitter also offers useful targeting options, including geography (down to the zipcode) and the ability to put a sponsored tweet into the timeline of an individual.
  • Facebook advertising includes sponsored updates and ads. The audience is big and diverse, so you can target a large number of like-minded people.
  • LinkedIn offers sponsored updates, ads and in-mail emails (that they’ll send on your behalf.) Generally LinkedIn is a good channel for engagement if you’re trying to reach a business audience, like potential corporate partners or participants for business-oriented events.
  • Instagram offers sponsored posts. Note that the Instagram audience has quickly aged and is no longer just teens. Generally it’s good for marketing visual content.
  • Reddit offers a twist: Ads can be the start of a conversation with your supporters. (You can also turn off comments if you want.) The audience here is as large as Twitter, but almost exclusively under-30 males. Our DonorDrive clients who fundraise through virtual video game marathons see much activity here.
  • Pinterest has Promoted Pins. The audience here is mostly 25-34 year-old women. Aspirational visual content is a must if you plan on engaging here with this gender and age group.
  • Snapchat is listed here mostly to let you know we didn’t forget it. We’re not discounting it, but the minimum spend here is high and many organizations can’t play.

Professional Google Grant management

Enlisting experts in Google Grant management typically leads to a large and more effective spend of your Ad Grant, as well a improved engagement. If you're looking to have your Google Grants managed by an agency, make sure they're a Google Partner. Google Partners have certified staff that have been schooled by Google and passed testing. Global Cloud has certified experts in both Google AdWords and Google Analytics. If you’d like to find out more about Global Cloud's management of Ad Grants programs for nonprofits, you can contact us here

In our next article we’ll examine how to effectively market your organization on social media and look at the value of targeting your campaigns. Check out Part 2 here.