Why Not-for-Profits need to stop cutting their marketing budget when times are tough

When the budget of a not-for-profit is under scrutiny (which it almost always is) and tough times are calling for a reallocation of finances, the marketing budget is almost always the first thing to go, which in the words of Vivian Ward aka Julia Roberts is a big mistake…big……HUGE. The marketing and overall branding efforts of a not-for-profit organisation plays a critical part in the overall growth, message, achievement of mission and sustainability of the organisation and it almost always determines where people choose to donate their hard-earned money. Cutting funding to promotional efforts can turn a financial hiccup into a full-blown crisis, having the very opposite effect NFPs are trying to achieve by eliminating spending in this area.

In saying this, it is completely understandable why many NFP organisations do this. When dealing with other people’s cash, which they have given you to help make a far bigger societal impact they are very judgemental over what exactly you do with it and so they should be, making it difficult when those same people view marketing as frivolous spending. The question that needs to be put forward however, is how exactly these donors expect you to keep getting donations and funding from government and non-government agencies alike, enough to both make a positive impact and cover basic running costs of the organisation without an effective means of getting your message out there in a way that confirms your credibility and trustworthiness. Driving social change demands you put time and effort into your branding and championing a unified team of people around a common goal. This takes time and money which will ultimately result in far greater payoffs for your cause down the line, if done correctly.

When a NFP can comfortably cover running costs, it allows for more effort to be dedicated to the cause, the reason for its existence in the first place. Branding matters when it comes to establishing yourself as a credible business, both to investors and to donors. The average communication budget of a NFP is between 2 and 3 percent, now this number is fine for a well-established, large scale organisation as this can amount to millions, however for a small operation trying to make big change in the world, this is a gross miscalculation that will likely have little impact, and when a marketing budget is being perceived as having little impact, even fewer dollars are placed into it, missing the point entirely.

The 2018 non-profit communications trends report found that when asked to rank their organisations communications efforts between 1 and 5, 1 being not effective and 5 being extremely effective, 53% chose 3, saying they were somewhat effective and 11% chose 1, saying they were only slightly or not at all effective. That equates to a large number of organisations needing to re-think how they go about promoting their mission and what they are willing to invest into it. More than ever in 2020 organisations need to be even more strategic and deliberate about how they want to be perceived and what exactly it is they want to achieve. With so much noise and fear online this year especially around COVID-19, it is hard to break through and have a positive impact. Finding a way to express your NFP’s unique culture, goals, successes and even failures is crucial to success in 2020. Investment in your branding is an investment in your future and NFP’s have a lot more at stake than your average organisation which should not be taken lightly.

If you’re a not-for-profit looking to expand your reach and get your cause across in a unique and effective manner, give Fresco Creative a call on 8116 9030 or send me an email at louise@frescocreative.com.au and let’s discuss.