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Nonprofit organizations, even large ones, tend to share a real grassroots spirit; a motivation to do things for themselves. It can be difficult to imagine an “outsider” truly understanding your mission or your team members’ passion for it. As a good steward of your supporters’ gifts, the last thing you want to do is spend frivolously on outside services that don’t fit your brand.
Strength, however, often comes from admitting you could benefit from the expertise of others. If you’re asking whether it’s time to partner with an agency for a new website design or digital marketing effort, you want to invest responsibly.
Online giving increased 20% in 2020, an uptick that continued through at least June 2021, according to Blackbaud. To capitalize on this momentum it’s important that your digital channels are functioning to their full potential and attracting as many donor dollars as possible. Just as you’re an expert in your field, digital marketing professionals are experts in strategically identifying and harnessing the right channels and the right message to reach your audience.
As a full-service agency that often works with nonprofit healthcare organizations, as well as other nonprofits, we want to share our experiences to help inform successful nonprofit marketing agency partnerships. When you choose a marketing agency, follow these tips for a productive, enjoyable partnership.
The time to plan for a new website or digital campaign for your nonprofit organization is not the month before you need it. Although you’re probably no stranger to working quickly under tight timelines, you and your agency will work together best if you take the time to prepare for your project well in advance.
First, get to know each other and allow your agency partner to fully understand your work and your donor base. You may wish to connect them with existing donors, recipients of services, or subject matter experts to gather stories and make strategy recommendations. Then, as you get started, build in time for your stakeholders to weigh in and review the work as it happens. As the project moves along, allow time for tracking, follow-up, and adjustment.
As we mentioned, messaging can benefit from the wisdom of your subject matter experts, and your agency partner can draw it out of them. Content creators are adept at speaking with scientists, healthcare providers, artists, teachers, social services providers, and other specialized professionals and getting to the essence of what these talented folks do. For example, your agency might conduct stakeholder interviews or panel discussions to gather accurate information and distill it to find the underlying emotional story that moves your audience to act.
Great nonprofit marketing is highly visual. Compelling imagery touches emotions and simplifies complex ideas. Your organization will need to invest in high-quality visuals, from professional photos of your events and team members to infographics that illustrate your impact. These may seem like large expenses up front, but their power to affect an audience makes them worth it. Chosen strategically, they can last a long time and provide a strong return on your investment. If your agency offers photography, illustration, and video, you may be able to streamline costs by getting everything you need from one source.
Nonprofit organizations may have numerous audiences, but they fall into two broad categories: consumers of your products or services, and donors to your cause. Most for-profit companies have only the former. Your agency partner must understand the importance of both, and the priority you assign them. However, both audiences want something of value in return. That’s right, donors too. That doesn’t mean you have to provide them with a tangible item — swag can be fun, but rest assured they already have enough tote bags.
Nonprofit donors want value for their investment. Give them regular updates and clear examples of how you’re using donor dollars. You might also offer useful information based on your expertise, in the form of ebooks or tips. Sometimes they simply appreciate opportunities to connect with like-minded people, which can happen over a cup of coffee or at a lavish gala, depending on your brand and budget.
Certain logistics of managing an agency partnership may seem trivial. However, taking care of these seemingly small tasks from the outset can smooth out communication as you move toward a successful marketing outcome.
Prepare for any sharing of third-party credentials or connections that your agency will need to market your organization. For example, if you use an outside vendor for processing donations or your donor database, determine whether your agency needs access or the ability to talk to a vendor on your behalf. Gather login credentials for platforms like Google Analytics and social media, if these are part of your partnership. Finally, meet regularly with your agency partner and come prepared with any updates or approvals they need.