With revenues at nonprofit organizations increasing by only 0.9 percent, to $ 298 billion in 2011, according to Giving USA, it is no secret how difficult fundraising has become in today's environment. Add to that the possibilities of an upcoming fiscal cliff and the loss of tax deductions for charitable contributions and you wind up with a very daunting picture.
Your advisory board, committee members and staff all want to help, and look to organization leadership for direction. Now, more than ever, is the time to focus on the development of a meaningful marketing communications plan to profitably improve your fundraising efforts.
As you develop your plan, and evaluate various directions and opportunities, I suggest you consider two tactics that have proven successful for improving marketing ROI.
Market Your Anniversary
Your anniversary offers a unique opportunity to rekindle enthusiasm and galvanize all of your constituents to the relevance, importance and needs of the organization. It gives you the chance to tell your story, not just about your past, but more importantly, about your plans and goals for the future. And do not think that an anniversary has to be only in multiples of 25 years. Your 33rd, properly marked, can be as meaningful as your 50th.
Some communications tactics to consider in marketing your anniversary include creating:
- An event or events to provide the maximum amount of interaction among existing and potential donors, volunteers, staff, foundations and the local community. But make sure your event does not isolate your various constituencies. They want to talk to one another, not be lectured. Interaction leads to engagement.
- A special theme and logo. But also consider a historical book and CD, or a one of a kind commemorative piece of artwork (that can also be used on your website). And employ a meaningful mix of both traditional and new media to create excitation.
- A corporate – nonprofit partnership. Your anniversary can provide the trigger point for new partnerships with business partners, bringing in real rewards for both organizations. And these new relationships can last for many years.
These examples are just a start. But we encourage you to start thinking of your anniversary as a 12 to 18 month marketing communications program and branding tool to improve your ROI.
Conduct A Marketing Communications Audit
As was recently pointed out by Tom Buday, head of marketing and communications at Nestle, the best source of marketing communications leakage in the for profit world is the quality of the messaging . It's not the media vehicle that does or does not deliver, rather it's the quality of the messaging.
Applying this to nonprofits means that it is imperative for you to evaluate your program and its elements. Invariably, nonprofits employ a media mix of direct mail, events, newsletters, public relations, social media, emailing and advertising in some combination. A marketing communications audit can help you determine how your program is working as a whole , while also evaluating how each message is performing against your established objectives.
This type of audit will help you determine whether the elements of your creative approach – graphics, tone and manner, and subject manner – are working together with one clear and meaningful message. Ultimately, the results of an audit will not only improve the quality and integration of your messaging but also help you determine how your media mix and budgets should be tailor.
Whether or not you take advantage of marketing your anniversary, a marketing communications audit can make a significant difference to your programs and ROI. Does not it make a lot of sense to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your programs before your commit significant dollars and time behind them?
Marketing Consultants Can Help
If you're like most nonprofits, the majority of your time, talent and treasury is devoted to your passion for the people, programs and services you provide. The same is probably true of many of your most committed volunteers.
Given that, does your organization have the marketing and marketing communications talent and experience to develop the strategies, plans and tactics that are necessary to help you succeed in today's environment? Trying to find this amongst your already overworked and underfunded staff or your volunteers does not make much sense.
Your budgets are tight but can you really afford not to bring in outside help? Look for marketing communications consulting partners to help you and your team develop and execute these programs. Above all, select consultants with broad scope and intensive senior level experience across industries and brands, in both the for profit and nonprofit arenas.
Importantly, they should be media neutral, not selling one particular marketing solution, and willing to "tell it like it is" so candid will flourish. Their fresh eyes will go a long way when it comes to improving your ROI.