How To Communicate The Value of Marketing To Your BoardApr 29, 2022
You already know how important marketing is to the success of your nonprofit organization. It allows you to spread awareness of your message and mission, build a recognizable identity both online and offline, and above all, to raise funds for your cause by building sturdy, long-lasting relationships with donors and partners -- past and potential alike.
The problem is that tackling marketing challenges requires resources, and more resources often means a larger budget. However passionate you may be about your ideas, however great the potential of your marketing campaigns, however exciting a possible partnership with external marketing experts, communicating the value of these proposed marketing efforts to your board can be a genuine challenge.
So how do you effectively talk to your board to make the case for additional marketing investment? How do you convince them of the long-term value of marketing efforts, rather than simply focus on immediate returns? How do you get your board on board?
Today, we address just that: demonstrating the impact of nonprofit marketing to board members and executives.
Marketing as “Infrastructure,” not “Overhead”
An effective communications and marketing plan is the highway that gets critical information from an organization to the clients who need it. It is the bridge from anonymity to awareness. Marketing isn’t the construction costs, it is the very infrastructure of what you’re trying to build as a nonprofit leader.
The truth is, getting your nonprofit’s message out to the public costs money. Period. And like all businesses, cutting costs does not equal more effective results. In fact, it is more often the opposite.
According to SEMrush, most execs say they have a marketing strategy… but only 61% thought that strategy was good. The biggest challenge reported from these marketers was creating content that generated leads. And of all the marketing skills most desired, a whopping 91% said the thing they needed the most help with was writing.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? As a nonprofit leader, you know your mission and the purpose of your organization inside and out, backward and forward. You’ve got the passion and drive for the work your organization does. It’s no wonder, then, why so many nonprofit leaders have a difficult time admitting they need help in the MarComm realm, particularly in regards to writing.
It’s no wonder why addressing your board to ask for more “overhead” is thus a true challenge. How could you possibly need help spreading the word? Aren’t you, yourself, “the word” in a sense?
That’s why it’s vital to integrate marketing and communications into the day-to-day conversation, not only with your team, but with the board itself, so let’s talk about exactly how you can make that happen.
Make Marketing a Regular Board Agenda Item
Marketing should always be a topic of discussion with your board, even when you’re not looking for investment approval or funding allocation. At every board meeting, you ought to be:
- Looking back - at the accomplishments of marketing efforts since the last board meeting, at the results from social media campaigns, at the successes online and off in increasing awareness, gaining followers, and garnering donations/support. Bring numbers and show specifics, make it clear that investments have worked and are working.
- Looking forward - at the upcoming marketing efforts, communications plans, potential new campaigns, and information broadcast, across channels. Once again, bring numbers and show specifics, to reassure your board that funds are being utilized wisely and effectively.
Soon enough, marketing will become a regular part of the conversation, so when the time comes that you require additional funding for a strong, new marketing campaign, or a social media advertising push, it does not come as an unexpected, misunderstood, nor extraneous request. This way your board knows, like you do, that marketing and communications are necessary infrastructure, not unnecessary overhead.
But what numbers are the right ones to present?
Understand the Marketing Metrics That Matter
Despite the wide range of marketing metrics out there, not all metrics are created equal. And more metrics do not necessarily equate to superior analysis.
There are, it turns out, more than a few “vanity metrics” that will lead leaders astray -- that is, “feel-good” or “surface-level” metrics, that look good on paper but rarely indicate genuine success or achievement of marketing goals.
These include metrics like:
- Social Media Followers/Subscribers (as opposed to actively engaged fans)
- “Likes” or “Thumbs-Ups” on a post or video (without any additional action taken)
- Website Visits (without conversion or follow-through)
These metrics are exciting, at a glance, but they often involve little to no actionable response or little to do with your bottom line.
Actionable metrics, on the other hand, “are ones that tie specific actions to observed results. This means metrics that highlight what’s working, and what isn’t” (RulerAnalytics).
Actionable metrics include things like:
- Revenue (determined by A/B testing marketing campaigns, for instance)
- Cost per Lead or Cost per Donation
- Donor/Supporter acquisition cost
- Donor Lifetime Value
The list goes on, but you get the idea. Essentially, what are the direct Key Performance Indicators that show the returns on investment your nonprofit is getting because of your marketing efforts. What are the “real” numbers that make a “real” difference to your organizational mission, outreach, and achievement?
These figures can be much trickier and a little harder to define. Which brings us to our last point:
Work Together to Define Next Steps
Whether you’re considering a big marketing initiative that’s going to require investment into external resources, or you’re just beginning to budget marketing and communications efforts into a new organization, start by working with any and all board members who have expertise in the area.
Maybe you have individuals on the board who have worked in marketing in the past. Perhaps you know some of them previously or currently ran nonprofit organizations of their own. Or maybe your board simply understands that spreading information in this information-overloaded world is a job unto itself, and they sympathize with your predicament.
Whatever the case, get your board involved. It will help them understand the challenges ahead and get them more invested in the behind-the-scenes efforts and activities to promote your cause.
And if you need more advice in regards to any and all of these nonprofit marketing efforts, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a call with our team at Cindy May Marketing. The success of your nonprofit mission is our number one priority, and helping you spread your message is what we do best.