October 31, 2014


Finding grants to fund marketing

Stacy Jones

Stacy Jones

How many times have you had this thought or actually said the following to your staff or board? "We would definitely be marketing ourselves more, if only we had the funding to support those efforts."   

It's a common statement when thinking and talking about marketing. 

Nonprofits are funded to provide services, raise awareness on issues and be a resource for their communities -- not necessarily to market themselves. 

But the question remains, exactly how are you going to accomplish all this if no one knows about you? 

All too often that question is answered with, "Well we do lots of outreach."  True, but even outreach is really just a form of marketing. 

While there is no denying that it takes work to secure grant funding to support marketing initiatives, the end result can help build a stronger, more widely known organization that makes an even greater impact in your community.

Outcome focused

Many times, nonprofit leaders focus on the deliverables when thinking about funding marketing: a brochure, a new website, or rebranding the organization.

Rather, you should be discussing why the deliverables are so important to your work.

Defining how the website will accomplish your organizational goals and how it will build capacity for the organization is critical. Seek funding based on your desired outcome rather than on the chosen deliverables or activities.

Will your website be able to reach your audience more effectively to educate and inform about a particular topic? Is this the way your target audience receives information most often? Will a new website more effectively help with service delivery? If yes, this is how you seek grant funding. 

Reframing your purpose from seeking grant funding to help create a website to seeking funding to educate and inform about heart disease, breast cancer, arts education or whatever your cause may be, can help grant funders understand the overall impact of their funding dollars and makes marketing more palatable. 

Understand your audience

Showing grant funders that you really understand your audience -- how they receive information and how they want to connect -- can go a long way in proving your marketing initiative has been well-thought out and researched.

For example, knowing your desired outcome is to reach young women between the ages of 18 and 25 to inform and educate them about nutrition and health, asking for funding for ads in the phone book probably won't be funded. It shows you don't really know your audience.

However, asking for funding to create public-service announcements to be distributed to local radio stations that primarily serve this demographic might be well received. 

Seek other funding streams

Many organizations are funded through very specific national, state or local funding as well as donor support.

When thinking about funding marketing activities, you have to look to other funding avenues, such as foundation and corporate grants.

Check with your statewide nonprofit association to see what local funding resources can help with your desired goals and which funders are open to funding marketing strategies within the overall proposal. 

Use online resources like FoundationCenter.org or Grants.gov. Even checking with your local Chamber of Commerce can help connect you with local businesses that may help you fund your initiative.

All that being said, remember, if you can frame marketing activities within a much larger purpose, some of the funders you have now might be more open to funding marketing.

Your greatest success seeking funding for marketing initiatives will come when you talk about the project in a much broader context. 

You are not really looking for funding for marketing. Rather, you are looking to build capacity for a particular cause, and marketing strategies just happen to be a way to accomplish these goals.

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 1-888-835-6236.


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