How to Adapt to a Reduced Nonprofit Marketing Budget

How to Adapt to a Reduced Nonprofit Marketing Budget

Most nonprofit marketers were already accustomed to working with fewer resources than their corporate counterparts. But after the tumultuous events of 2020, you may find that your budget is smaller than usual or facing extreme scrutiny.

No marketer wants their budget reduced, but it’s important to keep in mind that new challenges often lead to innovative thinking and positive outcomes. The same goes for having to examine spending habits with a more critical eye. Here are a few tips to help you adjust to these new constraints—and find creative solutions.

1. Focus on fewer things—and do them better

On average, business-to-business (B2B) marketers use 13 marketing tactics. Nonprofit organizations have been found to use about 12.

While there are certainly advantages to using a diverse mix of approaches, you don’t want your team to overextend itself. Each new tactic you adopt brings a need for new expertise, strategy, planning, tracking, and optimizing. And while it’s not always easy to let go, by thoughtfully culling non-essential approaches, you empower your team to focus on what it does best—and where it can (and must) do better.

By forcing constraints upon yourself and using only the most appropriate channels and tactics, you can pursue projects more diligently—without the distraction of numerous overlapping initiatives. Plus, by focusing on fewer tactics, your team will have the opportunity to master them, rather than stretching themselves too thin.

2. Clearly define your standards

One of the biggest gripes marketers have with “quality” is that the term is often used arbitrarily. If one marketer says quality has been achieved while another declares it hasn’t, that’s a problem. Granted, there will always be gray areas, but you can clear up much of it by setting objective, measurable standards.

Think about each of the channels and tactics you use. What’s the goal of each? Of all the metrics you could use to track it, which is most indicative of success? There’s often a tendency in marketing to carry over the same goals and metrics from one tactic to the next, when in reality, there’s a more fitting metric that isn’t being used. It may seem trivial at times, but making sure you’re chasing the right goals and metrics is especially important in determining the value of long-term marketing campaigns where the ties to fundraising revenue aren’t as direct.

Without knowing what quality means, you’re also only guessing how it relates to budget allocations. With a stronger sense of your own “unacceptable-to-exceptional spectrum,” you can be confident about how and where you’re investing both your money and attention.

3. Adopt an ABM program

Account-based marketing (ABM) is gaining traction in the nonprofit world. With ABM, instead of sending a single message to all donors or prospects, you target individuals with personalized messaging.

To do this effectively, you’ll have to gather data on these individuals. While this can be time consuming and may require adding an additional step into your routine, it’s been shown to pay off: email personalization increases open rates by 26%—and click-through rates by 250%.

Personalization increases open rates by 26%

To make personalization more manageable, your team can focus on donor segmentation, organizing individuals into groups based on commonalities like age, location, or typical donation amounts. From there, you can personalize email content and subject lines to each group, only sending them content that directly pertains to them.

4. Become more effective at measuring and proving ROI

Now more than ever, marketers are being challenged to prove the return on investment (ROI) of their efforts. Strengthening your ability to do so is highly advantageous in the long run and can reassure leaders that resources are being wisely allocated.

It’s important to consider both the long and short of marketing ROI. When marketers attempt to measure ROI too soon, they often sell their efforts short—especially in organizations like nonprofits where prospects may require a little nurturing before taking the next step. Just because someone doesn’t immediately donate doesn’t mean the campaign won’t be highly effective in the long term.

It’s also worth noting that measuring success in uncertain times may be different. The ROI equation can look different than it did months ago, and that's okay. Simply use the data at your disposal—like new trends or benchmarks—to adopt realistic objectives and quantitative targets.

For many teams, this downturn represents a prime opportunity for shoring up weaknesses with attribution. This will not only allow you to more precisely allocate future spending, but it will also ensure your marketing team gets proper credit for everything you contributed to, from donor retention to volunteer sign-ups and beyond.

5. Maximize organic marketing opportunities

When the budget gets tight, what better time to refocus on organic marketing tactics?

Maximize organic marketing opportunities

Organic marketing may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s still an incredibly powerful (and free) tool at your disposal. Post videos to YouTube or articles on your website to increase leads—or encourage user-generated content by creating hashtags for your social media followers to use. If you’re not sure where to get started, this Organic + Paid Playbook from LinkedIn offers some simple strategies for boosting your organization’s organic presence and driving better results.

A smaller budget doesn’t have to mean a smaller impact

While it may be less than ideal to navigate these challenging times with limited resources, any steps you take to adapt and tighten your marketing strategy will be beneficial both now and in the long run, helping to make your nonprofit more resilient. Budgets will always rise and fall, but by taking these steps, you’ll be able to confidently assert that you’re investing smart quantities of time and money—and securing quality outcomes in return. 

To learn more about how marketing on LinkedIn can help your organization reach an engaged professional audience, get in touch with our Nonprofit Specialists.