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Challenging Times for Your Nonprofit? Consider Upping Your Marketing Efforts

May 6, 2024

Our team was surprised a few weeks ago when we opened our inboxes to find a story in the Fort Worth Report about a local nonprofit, Hope Center for Autism, immediately closing its doors. The article reports that on the evening of March 24, the nonprofit’s executive director, Susan Wood sent an email saying the nonprofit’s doors would be closing immediately due to funding issues. For the parents and children who have depended on the center, it was no doubt shocking news. As a nonprofit, and as an agency that works with nonprofits, we also recognize that this is the worst-case scenario for any organization that exists to serve others.

The Hope Center for Autism worked with families for more than 15 years. They had a great impact — and the ending, for now, is sudden and difficult. It’s far from what we all envision for our change-making work. As Wood wrote on Facebook, “We have worked tirelessly and have exhausted every resource in an attempt to continue.” You can read more about the closing of the nonprofit here and here, but in the meantime, we felt compelled to write an encouraging note to our fellow nonprofit leaders.

 

It’s a Funny Time in the Nonprofit World

It’s a funny time in the world of nonprofits — there seems to be more challenges than ever in a field that’s always working a bit against the odds. A survey conducted by the networks of National Council of Nonprofits in April 2023 found that 74.6% of nonprofits have job vacancies, which means more work for smaller teams. They also found that nearly three out of ten nonprofits have longer waiting lists for service now, compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to explaining the difficulty of recruiting and retaining employees, the survey found 72.2% of respondents cited salary competition, followed by budget constraints/insufficient funds. Our team also knows several local nonprofits that have had to let go of team members.

| Read the full survey report here.

All this to say, if you’ve been feeling extra challenges in your day-to-day work, know that it’s not just you. In times when budgets may be smaller and you’re having to make some tough decisions, we want to encourage you, if at all possible, to not cut your marketing and PR budget.

 

Why We Advise You Not to Cut Your Nonprofit’s Marketing and PR Budget

When times are tough, it’s a natural instinct to quickly cut budgets where you think you can. The inclination to make marketing efforts — social media, radio, television, etc. — your first stop can be as quick as a knee-jerk reaction.

What we’ve seen through the years, though, is greater success for organizations that don’t pull back. A famous example of this is Post (yes, as in the cereal brand). Before the Great Depression, they were the top-seller in the cereal industry. As the Great Depression set in, Post made sweeping cuts to its marketing budget and Kellogg, a younger competitor, seized the opportunity. They doubled their advertising budget, invested in ads for their new Rice Krispies cereal, and increased their profits by 30%. Kellogg became the industry leader and has never relinquished the spot.

 

In challenging times, follow Kellogg’s example and try upping your nonprofit marketing efforts.

 

As I type this, I think I can hear you saying, “Yeah, but we are no Kellogg.” That may be true, but our team still wants to encourage you to learn from Post’s mistake: A recession, or just a challenging time in the life of your organization, is actually a time to up your marketing efforts.

Your audience needs to keep hearing from you as you push forward with the good work your nonprofit does. For you this might mean launching a special campaign to meet the moment and remind people of your nonprofit’s impact on individuals and communities. It might mean admitting that times are tough and the organization needs extra support — whatever people can spare. See this moment as an opportunity to build even greater connection by acknowledging the current circumstances and reminding your community that you’ll keep providing what they need, but to do that, you need their support.

Bonus: Allow this moment to make way for new ideas and innovations of how you communicate with both those you serve and the community of supporters who champion your cause. Challenging times call for creativity and extra joy — resources that nonprofits are often full of thanks to their mission and people.

 

Open a window to new ideas and innovations for communicating with your community of supporters.

 

All in all, we’ve seen that as other organizations pull back from marketing and PR, not only is there more room to be heard, but the cost of advertising often drops as well. If you don’t know where to start, let’s talk about where your nonprofit can push forward — send us an email at info@thecauseagency.org or call 817-335-0101.