Tag Archives: nonprofit marketing

  • 14 February 2014
Should advertising be viewed differently in the nonprofit sector?

Should advertising be viewed differently in the nonprofit sector?

Last week one of our blog readers requested to find out more information regarding advertising in the nonprofit sector. His exact question was, "How can a nonprofit effectively market without advertising?". I began to generate this list:

  1. Public Service Announcements
  2. Direct Mail and Email
  3. Word of Mouth
  4. Promotional Items
  5. Online Advertising
  6. Social Media

Although great avenues for spreading cause awareness, these tools could be limiting. An illustration of these possible limitations can be found on the website TED in Dan Pallotta’s video titled, 'the way we think about charity is dead wrong'. Dan Pallotta is best known for creating the multi-day charitable event industry with the long distance Breast Cancer 3-day walks, AIDS Rides bicycle journeys, and Out of the Darkness suicide prevention night walks. The video 'the way we think about charity is dead wrong' went viral as Dan described how nonprofits are rewarded for how little they spend and he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and accomplishments, even if that comes with increased expenses. In the video Dan was quoted as saying,

"Charitable giving has remained stuck in the US at 2% of GDP ever since we started measuring it in the 1970s, that is an important fact because that tells us that in 40 years the nonprofit sector has not been able to wrestle any market share from the forprofit sector and if you think about it how could one sector take market share from another sector if it's not really allowed to market"

The problem, he explained, is that we have a different set of rules for charities that puts them at a competitive disadvantage in 5 areas:

  1. Compensation - Because of the stark, mutually exclusive choice offered to prospective leaders between doing very well for yourself and your family and doing good for the world, the nonprofit sector is not able to attract or keep the best talent.
  2. Advertising and marketing - Because nonprofits are punished for advertising or marketing like for-profits, the nonprofit sector has not been able to increase its market share relative to the for-profit sector with respect to GDP.
  3. Taking risk on new revenue ideas - Because of the public relations nightmare that would result from an innovative but unsuccessful fundraising endeavor, nonprofits cannot implement daring new ideas needed to exponentially grow the necessary revenues to tackle the big social problems.
  4. Time - Because the public and funders have little patience for nonprofits that fail to immediately, effectively and efficiently create a measurable social impact (unlike for-profit start-ups that are allowed by their investors to take years to return a profit), nonprofits are forced to adopt conservative strategies that do not allow them to patiently invest in building scale.
  5. Profit to attract risk capital - Because nonprofits cannot promise profits to investors in order to attract capital to fund new and innovative ideas, nonprofits are starved for growth and risk and idea capital.

501(c)(3) organizations are certainly allowed to advertise and market, but the "punishment" Dan is referring to is the public's view on donations being spent on advertising. This view leads to an underinvestment in advertising. Below is a chart taken from the Nonprofit Quarterly of the nine largest nonprofits ranked by Forbes and the percentage of advertising recorded as overhead.


As you can see more than half of the organizations treat less than 15% of their advertising as overhead. YMCA and Goodwill has not recorded any advertising as overhead because they classify it as program expenses. Presumably, treating advertising as overhead is not correct. According to accouting rules, if an organization's mission is to raise awareness about an issue, associated costs are classified as program expenses, not overhead. Nonprofits can market without advertising effectively, but would increasing advertising be beneficial? That depends on a multitude of factors and is really up to the organization and stakeholders to decide. We would love to know your thoughts on advertising in the nonprofit sector. Would you feel comfortable knowing .90 cents of your dollar donated went to the funding of an advertising campaign?

  Thanks for reading! -Rebecca

  • 8 February 2013
USPS Ends Saturday Delivery

USPS Ends Saturday Delivery

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced that it will end Saturday pick-up and delivery of mail on Saturdays starting August 5th. CNN Money reports that the postal service will save $2 billion by making the shift, but accurately acknowledges that the savings is “a drop in the bucket compared to a loss of $16 billion the Postal Service reported for 2012.” The delivery of bulk items and boxes will not be affected by this change, so those shoes you order off the web will still arrive on time. But what does this mean for the nonprofits that use bulk mailing to reach every household? It seems obvious that if the USPS is going to limit delivery, that nonprofits will move to web based ways of reaching out to possible donors, volunteers, activists, and clients.

Nonprofit Org Postage

Gizmodo’s Brian Barrett approves of the postal service cutting delivery days, and he even suggests that the USPS “cut mail delivery to Monday-Wednesday-Friday.” Is he right? Does the mail have to be a daily occurrence? For those that do not depend on a paycheck in the mail, I guess it doesn’t. “We live in a world of instant communication and endless options. We email, we tweet, we DM, we Facebook message, we chat, we text,” says Barrett. He’s right, in many ways that the instant, digital abilities to send messages have hurt the USPS, but many have opted to “go green” getting their bank statements, and tax documents emailed or downloaded from an employee website. All forms of communication and daily life are moving to the web. Tony Conway, head of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers has been a proponent for eliminating Saturday delivery and closing/consolidating excess mail sorting facilities. Conway appeared on a panel to discuss “The Postal Service’s Financial Crisis: What It Means for Nonprofit Mailers” on November 16th, 2012 hosted by Venable LLP. In this discussion he said that 80% the operating costs of the USPS were labor related and this cost is translated back to the cost burden on the nonprofit customer. From a fiscal point of view, the only way to make the USPS viable for nonprofits is to streamline the process and cut costs. The USPS does need to streamline its redundancies and maybe even its hours of operation in order to trim its bulging waistline of overspending, but for those nonprofits looking for a cheaper way to get the word out, the web is the way to go. A Facebook post, a tweet, or a blog post is much more long lasting and considerably farther-reaching than a USPS direct mailing. So, the final decision should be to create your online brand and get the word out through new avenues that are free. An online identity is crucial, cost effective, and unlimited in its scope of possibilities for every nonprofit.

  • 14 June 2011
Do You Really Need to Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

Do You Really Need to Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

Whether you’re in the marketing department of a large nonprofit or a DIY-minded entrepreneur, you have to consider the implications of the mobile computing shift on your online presence. Smartphones are becoming more mainstream by the week, and less trendy but still handy “feature” phones, their less chic little cousins, have nearly saturated the rest of the market.

A news story has recently been making the rounds about the speculation that more smartphones than PC’s will be made in 2011. Journalists and bloggers have been heralding it as a shift in the paradigm, claiming that the desktop is dead.

But how does this tech trend translate into real-world marketing numbers? Do you really need to take this into account when developing your organization’s web site?

The answer is, “of course.”*

*But notice the asterisk. Each brand is unique, and there is no one-size fits all approach to the mobile web. You have to ask yourself some questions to find your own strategy.

Interested in tackling this critical topic? Then read more…

Is your target audience made up of frequent mobile web browsers?

According to a 2011 study by the Nielsen ratings company, 31% of mobile users in the US now surf the web on their phones at least some of the time. In a 2010 study, Nielsen also found that people who browsed the web on their phone at least once a month were largely younger males, and 69% were browsing on smart phones. The average age for these consumers is 36.4, and the average household income is $100,296. They browse the web looking largely for entertainment, the study says.

This is an attractive group to traditional advertisers. But are they your target audience?

Is 6% important?

Those are impressive numbers. Of those who own web-browsing phones, a decent number use them at least once a month. And this is a wealthy and trendy group.

But check out another set of numbers, not brought up by most tech bloggers:

According to the web analytic company StatCounter, as of May 2011, 5.75% of all web traffic is now on mobile phones, with 96.25% of traffic remaining on those old-fashioned desktops. Given all the buzz around mobile, that might be smaller than you were expecting. Logically, it seems that the many people with the ability to browse the web on their phone only use that ability selectively. So how large, exactly, is 6% from a marketing perspective?

Is that a large enough number to re-design your web site to be more mobile friendly, or to compel your organization to pay a company to develop an app for your cause?

Stay Tuned for Part 2
6% is a small number, but it’s one that is clearly growing. And the small group of people who that number describes are definitely attractive as potential supporters and customers.

Take a moment to think about whether reaching this audience is a priority for your business. Next week, we’ll be back with part two of this series, with details on how to best fit your message to that tiny mobile screen.

And, as always, we’re here. If you need any help on making this decision or on making a mobile-friendly site, feel free to contact us at WebServes.