Nonprofits often find it valuable to work with a marketing agency to design and execute various programs and campaigns, or possibly work at a higher level on vision and strategy. However, while some nonprofits reap impressive rewards from these relationships, others find the experience underwhelming, or in some cases, fruitless.
Naturally, each scenario is unique, and there is no blanket rule or policy that can ensure 100% success. Yet with this being said, it is our experience that nonprofits that follow the five steps below when choosing a marketing agency are far more likely to find the experience rewarding, instead of regrettable:
Step 1: Set Goals
Nonprofits should start by identifying specific and realistic goals they want their marketing partner to help them achieve. For example, they may want help acquiring X number of donors within 12 months from social media campaigns or increasing repeat donor revenue by x%, etc.
Step 2: Identify Budget
Identifying the available budget allows nonprofits to prioritize their requirements, and ensure that they focus on the “need to haves” before going over to the “nice to haves”. Often, many organizations (by no means just nonprofits) end up purchasing marketing solutions that are not fundamentally what they need at the time.
Step 3: Evaluate Resources
Next, nonprofits should evaluate their infrastructure and resources (e.g. human capital, technology), in order to identify what they have in-house, and what they need to outsource. This helps refine what needs to be on the shopping list when it comes time to connect with prospect marketing agencies.
Step 4: Consult Nonprofits
Nonprofits should reach out to other nonprofits that are comparable in terms of size/budget, and get some feedback and recommendations. Testimonials and case studies can be very helpful here as well. Indeed, although nonprofits may on some level compete for the same donor dollars, they are remarkably helpful towards one another. Nonprofits that reach out for advice should expect a level of support that is often not found in the private sector.
Step 5: Contact Marketing Agencies
After organizing and analyzing all of the intelligence gleaned from the first four steps, it is time for nonprofits to contact prospective marketing agencies. It is vital to ask direct, frank questions about strategy, approach, workflows, reporting relationships, project management, and of course, fee structure.
We recommend that pool of candidates should be limited to marketing agencies that have at least some (but preferably a significant amount) of experience working with nonprofits, and have a direct understanding and appreciation of nonprofit culture. Some nonprofits may want to use an RFP process, whereas others may find it more efficient to ask individual agencies to submit a proposal and plan.
A Final Word
Finally, we encourage nonprofits to think ahead when choosing a marketing agency. For example, in addition to meeting current/short-term goals, the agency should dedicated to a long-term relationship, and equipped with advanced analytical capabilities such as data collection, data analysis and reporting. This way, nonprofits can build up their database and generate more detailed donor analysis on behaviors, interests, preferences -- ultimately so they can make better strategic decisions, and move their organization onward and upward!