Outlook for Nonprofit Marketing Budgets Looks Brighter

Anyone who has had the pleasure of working with or for a charity knows that budget season is a time of high-tensions.  It’s as if you are throwing a birthday party for a bright-eyed, excited child only to find that the cake is too small.  Seriously, dreams are about to be crushed.

There are solutions:  A) Tell the less popular kids that there is simply not enough cake for them and send ‘em home pouting. B) Make another less-than-willing peer give up a portion of her slice in order to even out the distribution. C) Divide the slices unevenly and give larger pieces to the kids who will cry the loudest and the smallest to those who will simply stare at their shoes and grimace.

Truly, all of the above will lead to post party apocalyptic chaos, squabbling, and, ultimately, to a group of frowning faces.  Marketers, within any business, know that the weight of the budget axe will fall largely upon their department’s funding.  When top CMOs were surveyed in 2009, the model predicted marketing budget cuts across the board, for all businesses, by %20 (Forrester Research).  For strained nonprofits, dependent upon donation revenue, this number was likely much higher.

There is a green light at the end of the tunnel as recently, according to the New York Times Article “Marketing Budgets Rise for Some Giants,” dollars are flowing back into the budgets of large super companies.  According to the article PepsiCo plans a budget increase of $100 million…. Since some are probably grumbling about how that huge number in no way reflects their business, know that the giants tend to lead the market trends.  The economy is picking up speed and dollars, loosely packed, may begin falling back into strained marketing budgets.

In the meantime, back at the party, kids will continue to quarrel and compete for a respectably-sized slice of cake. The clever kids know of a few ways to stack the deck….  The most important is to make sure to communicate the strategy a marketing department has for increasing revenue both clearly and quantifiably.  Although much of marketing is overhead, it directly impacts revenue.  Marketers must think about quantifying the marketing need and setting objectives that clearly illustrate how not cutting, but increasing, a marketing budget will result in higher profitability.

Promotional product marketing is an effective way to inexpensively build a nonprofit brand and capture revenue.  When you take this new variable into consideration, your argument for more dollars becomes even stronger.  I mean, which of your budgetary competitors can say our marketing efforts will increase donation revenue by $X, build brand equity by %Y, and actually create a new revenue stream of $Z.  Let’s see just how well the folks down the hall in finance can argue with that.

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