Nonprofit organizations often scrape by on a shoestring budget and have a hard time thinking of themselves as viable businesses, let alone feeling like they can justify spending money on advertising and marketing. But public relations are incredibly important for nonprofit organizations and agencies. Marketing and advertising brings donations, clients, and added awareness about programs and services. How do you know if and what kind of advertising is right for your nonprofit organization?
One thing nonprofits must be conscious and considerate of is how they are perceived in the community they serve. Advertising can be a slippery wicket–you need to get the word out about your organization and its services, but you don’t want to create ill will by appearing to spend money “foolishly” on public relations that the public perceives should be going to clients. One way you can do this is to create “public awareness” campaigns that tell the stories of your clients or your agency and have a call to action to encourage the public to get involved or donate. These public awareness campaigns can be a very effective way to advertise and build your agency “brand”–while creating revenue, volunteers, or public support for your nonprofit’s efforts.
Another way to combat the “why are you spending money on advertising?” problem is to get television or radio air time, print ad space, or other traditional types of advertising donated or underwritten by a business or corporation, so the funds aren’t coming out of your budget. You can find sponsors for your marketing and public relations and then give them “credit” by stating that the message or ad was “sponsored by” or “underwritten by” XYZ corporation. This is one way both you and a corporate or individual sponsor can get public attention at the same time. Some local media outlets may even provide donated inkind advertising to community service organizations, so it might be worth your time and effort to put together a proposal and try to get a media sponsor for your agency or a project or program.
The justification for marketing and advertising nonprofits is that it can help you grow your donor base, volunteer base, and get the word out about your services to potential clients and the community. Many nonprofits are accidentally well-kept secrets in their cities or neighborhoods and the lack of public awareness actually impedes the agency’s mission to do good work. Look for ways to get your feet wet with advertising that don’t cost much and track the response. This will help to build confidence for furthering your marketing efforts.