Five Steps to Budget Your Marketing and Donor Communications Dollars

Know when to invest and when to DIY

I can already hear the resounding sigh and mutters of, “forever on a budget.” Trust me, I get it.  Money will never not be tight when you’re in the nonprofit sector. Maybe someday though… a girl can dream, right?

Luckily for you, until we’re all swimming in the dough, Nonprofit Hub has some ideas on the best way to invest your marketing and donor communications dollars. Come with us on a journey to understand how your organization can figure out the best method for investing that hard-earned money.


Donor Communications vs. Marketing Communications

First of all, how do donor communications and marketing communications differ and how are they similar? The donor communications include any communication where you’re getting the people who are already invested in your organization to be even more invested. You want to keep all of your donors in the loop with how you’re spending the money they donated and general changes at your organization.

Marketing communications, on the other hand, serve to convince people who aren’t already on board to get on board with your organization.

But most likely, you’ll be reaching out to them using the same types of promotional and marketing pieces and the same platforms. Think direct mail, email marketing, word of mouth, etc. That’s why we’re talking about the two communication channels in the same vein. Simply remember that the content and delivery style can differ.


5 Steps to Determine a Good Communication Investment


Step One: Establish the “What”

Luckily for nonprofit organizations, the “why” is the simple part. You’ve already established the mission and you know why you’re working toward your goal. However, in this case we’re talking about what you want to achieve. What is the end goal? Pick a measurable goal such as a specific percentage of fundraising dollar increase or a specific volunteer retention rate for the year. Goals should always have a measurable so that you can track progress. What is it that you want your marketing or donor communication piece to achieve?


Step Two: Pick Your Priorities

What type of marketing ventures would your money be best spent on this year or even this month? Different organizations will have money delegated in different ways. Some have a budget for each month and flex depending on the type of marketing needs are present at the time. Others have an overarching budget for the year.

Consider some of the biggest ventures you’ll have throughout the year and how much those ventures have cost your organization in the past. Brainstorm the aspects of those ventures that you can live without, or that you can change.

Maybe it’s a huge priority this year to print attractive flyers to hand out at your events. Or, maybe it’s important that you try to attract an entirely new crowd through a creative direct mail campaign.


Step Three: Evaluate What You Have To Offer

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the nonprofit world, it’s that our staff members and volunteers come with all different skill sets and backgrounds. I’m continually surprised when I hear the past-life or the side-hobby of one of our staff members. Come up with a list of tasks that you’ll need to have done for any given marketing piece, down to every last detail. Put names next to the tasks you can handle and stars next to the things you’ll need to outsource.


Step Four: Think Thrifty

If you operate on a smaller budget, we don’t need to tell you to be smart about your money. You know better than anyone, operating with fewer resources is a huge challenge, but that doesn’t need to mean less quality of work. Allocate your dollars where it benefits your mission and save where you can, but don’t skimp on the important details just because of a price tag.


Step Five: Seek Experts

Some marketing ventures deserve to be left to the professionals and there’s a specific key to knowing when this is possible. There are certain marketing aspects were you can’t “fake it ‘til you make it.” Always ask yourself, “does this marketing piece make me want to donate?” Insert whatever end goal you have. If it doesn’t, figure out a way. You might need to seek outside help at this point.

You need the marketing campaign to provide a return on your investment. When will investing your organization’s money into a marketing venture be worth it? When you’re raking in more fundraising dollars than the amount you put into your marketing efforts. Return on Investment is determined as a percentage.


                                      Money made from marketing/donor communication – cost spent

Return on Investment = ————————————————————————————

                                                          Cost spent on marketing/donor communication

Technically, any percentage of return is good. However, it’s up to your organization to determine if the effort is worth the amount of return you receive.


Inventive Ways for DIY Marketing

As promised, we understand the need for marketing ventures you can do in-house with what you have. Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling.

  • Invest in the Talent You Have
    Don’t pat your lead volunteer on the head and tell them you’ll leave marketing to the professionals when they tell you they were the marketing chair of their sorority or the likes. Maybe that person doesn’t know how design works from start to finish, but they could have a general understanding of marketing and be able to contribute what they did learn. That individual might know how to make minuscule design edits to your marketing piece so that you don’t have to send it all the way back to the original creator.

    In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”


  • Learn a New Talent
    Yes, there are certain things left better to professionals. But you can constantly attend events, seminars or webinars to learn more about how you can be doing these things yourself. Have you checked out our list of completely free Hubinars?

    There’s a concept pitched by Seth Godin about making yourself a linchpin. The simplest version of that means you make yourself indispensable. This isn’t just business talk. Learn a new talent to make yourself indispensable for an organization. There’s a ton of free training to make yourself better in every aspect, so what are you waiting for?


  • Find the Good in Donors
    Your current donors have already established that they’re feelin’ the love from your organization. Keep in mind that most of them aren’t working for you full-time—they have day jobs and other hobbies. If you can make super believers out of your constituents, they’ll be happy to help out in any area they can.

    Maybe one of your constituents is a marketer for their day job and they love your organization so much they’re willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen? They say no. I can almost guarantee that your most loyal donors will be willing to help out with whatever they can. Maybe that even means a specifically targeted donation for a specific marketing campaign.


posts of 2017

Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

May 9, 2017

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