October 24, 2014


Building a marketing budget

While there certainly are numerous no-low cost strategies to help nonprofits engage in effective communications, it's important that nonprofits recognize the need to spend some funding on marketing opportunities.

Following are ways nonprofits can begin to build marketing into their budgets.

Make marketing a priority. When CEOs recognize the need and importance of effectively communicating the message of their organization, and help the Board to understand this as well, marketing takes on a significant importance in the organization.  Recognizing the need is the first hurdle for nonprofits and can go a long way in paving the way for funding for marketing opportunities.

Think and speak of marketing as capacity building. Nonprofit marketing is more than a brochure, a website, a newsletter. It's engaging in strategic activities that increase the capacity of the organization to sustain itself over time. Strategic marketing can grow an organization, help revitalize stagnant programs and bring in more advocates and funding. Helping potential funders to see the impact of nonprofit marketing as capacity building allows for funding that might not otherwise be made available.   

Develop a marketing plan. Nonprofit organizations, particularly ones seeking funding for marketing, need a marketing plan. A strategic marketing plan shows thought and accountability for how marketing funding will be spent. A marketing plan also allows partners and potential funders to see a nonprofit's goals and milestones and provides a way for evaluation of marketing strategies. 

Always add communications to new funding opportunities. Make sure that some communication funding is added to the budget for new proposals. It's important to remember that even when applying for funding for a new program or an increase for current services, the nonprofit will need to utilize some communication strategies to tell the community, or even current clients and constituents, about the new program or expanded services. While often overlooked, this is an important budget addition for a program's ultimate success.

Look for corporate partners and sponsors. Marketing is something corporate America can concretely understand. Many opportunities exist for nonprofits to partner with local businesses in coordinated marketing efforts. Choosing the right businesses that support the mission is a critical step in making these partnerships work to the benefit of both the business and the nonprofit.

A strategic marketing plan, the right corporate partner and framing nonprofit marketing as capacity building can open up a variety of funding opportunities that will help nonprofits with their marketing success.

Stacy Jones is a nonprofit marketing consultant based in Troy, N.Y., and a Shoestring Creative Group Network Affiliate. Stacy can be reached at affiliates@shoestringgroup.com or 888.835.6236.


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