Surprising Costs of Poor Nonprofit Marketing

The Surprising Costs of Poor Nonprofit Marketing, and How to Fix Them


Do you track all of your nonprofit marketing spend?

How much effort goes into your analysis of what you spend on each and every marketing effort?

Chances are if you did track every activity and every cent, you’d be shocked at the true cost of nonprofit marketing. You may be even more surprised at the high cost of poor nonprofit marketing. Here’s a look at hidden costs when marketing goes wrong – and what you can do to fix it.

Cost of Staff Salaries

Want to see if the Return on Investment (ROI) for an event outweighs the effort of organizing and hosting it? Ask your team to use Toggl – the free time tracking tool – and log every moment they spend on the event planning. From researching venues to organizing speakers, to creating the marketing plan, designing content, preparing the invitation lists, and so on, event planners spend countless hours working on the event.

The fix: Conduct an actual count of hours for all employees working on the event and multiply it by the employees’ salaries. You’re likely to see an alarming figure. On average, it could total as much as half of what you will raise from the event. If an event is not generating revenue that far exceeds the cost of producing the event, it’s time to revisit your event calendar and research new opportunities.

Cost of Poor Planning

Nonprofits generally run on a tighter budget and operate with a smaller team than for-profit companies. Your funders and grantors want their dollars spent on programs and generating outcomes. Very few donors designate donations to nonprofit marketing. You’re expected to do more with less and sometimes that means pulling the plan from last year’s event and making it work for this year. The problem with this approach is no time is spent on marketing research and after a few years go by, you’re marketing tactics are outdated and you’re missing out on new trends, new tools, and new ideas.

It’s also easy to look at marketing using an event by event basis. We have an event coming up. We gather the team and start planning. We contact last year’s sponsors and try to recruit new sponsors. Our goal with the event is often to make as much as last year and hopefully a little more. Sound familiar?

The fix: The problem with the event-based marketing trap is it keeps us narrowly focused on just one event at a time. To increase our revenue generated from events, we need to look at all of our campaigns for the year and customize our sponsor packages to meet our sponsors’ individual business needs.

Cost of Poor Professional Development

Does your nonprofit have a budget for employee marketing training and professional development? If you answered no, you’re not alone. Conferences, workshops, and training programs can often come with a hefty price tag. Training falls into the “nice to have” line items of our budgeting instead of in our ‘must have’ line items. But not focusing on professional development can actually be doing more damage than you realize.

The fix: One of the easiest ways to begin developing your team’s marketing skills is to pull job descriptions of current marketing positions posted online. Compare the requirements of these positions to those of your current staff. Could your staff meet these requirements? If not, then the skills they are missing become the training to-do list.

Cost of Poor Marketing Measurement

The late business guru Peter Drucker coined the phrase, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Measuring your marketing efforts is critical for managing your marketing budget and generating the revenue you need to sustain your nonprofit. It’s common for marketers to look at fundraising efforts individually and measure success by whether or not it exceeded last year’s numbers. But even if an event does exceed last year’s numbers, do you know specifically what tactics worked the best? If you don’t, then you’re at risk of wasting money and effort on poor performing tactics. There’s no time for that!

The fix: The Google Analytics Academy is free. Identify staff members to learn more about Google Analytics and tying these measurement opportunities to your online marketing efforts.

More Opportunities To Improve

So, what’s a nonprofit leader to do to ensure they are marketing their services and solutions in the best way possible?

How can you get the marketing training your team needs without breaking the bank?

How can you create more value for event sponsors and generate more revenue with your events?

Integrated Nonprofit MarketingThe answer to these questions is to integrate your marketing efforts and strengthen professional development efforts. The Nonprofit Marketing Academy offers a self-paced, online course for nonprofit leaders and their marketing teams.

The Integrated Nonprofit Marketing course is a roadmap that puts important systems and processes in place to help nonprofit businesses run smoothly. The course connects nonprofit leaders with access to over 100 resources, including technology platforms, to support marketing and other business operations, and templates to streamline marketing creation. The course is a top-level professional development course for marketing professionals and department leaders, and an excellent tool for bringing all employees and board members together to support the marketing function.

Learn everything you need to know right from the comfort of your desk or mobile device.

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