Hiring a Nonprofit Marketing Agency? 6 Questions to Ponder.

Winston Churchill once remarked that “we build our houses, and then they shape us.”

He was referring to Parliament.

But that statement applies to most of us.

That is, we create and fulfill our own expectations.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in nonprofit marketing and communications.

The demands being placed on communications teams and the requirement for specialized skills is growing rapidly.

Most nonprofits struggle to find talent with diverse capabilities to focus on their endlessly complex set of needs.

For all but the largest and fully equipped nonprofits, hiring a team of specialists in areas like data analysis, market research and UX design simply is not financially feasible.

What should a progressive, forward-looking nonprofit do?

Technology is the backbone of today’s most successful marketing efforts.

These days modern nonprofit marketers have access to data about who is visiting their site, how they are spending their time on your site and even how likely they might be to donate, sign up to volunteer or take another desired action.

The challenge? There are thousands of technologies that make it possible to access and interpret that data.

It’s next to impossible for any nonprofit marketing and communications team to master the wide array of technologies required to succeed in today’s digital world.

Moreover, with so much data at our disposal it can be difficult to figure out the difference between metrics that contain actionable information and those that are meaningless.

Here are 6 questions to ponder as you consider outsourcing your marketing and communications needs:

  • What is their process? The goal of that process is to understand what your donors expect. Understanding the donor or the customer is the key to effective conversion. Besides running tests to prove hypotheses, at the very least they should be; reviewing your analytics and resetting goals, running website user tests, and interviewing your donors and customers.
  • Are they digitally savvy? Many agencies provide professional services based on a technology they developed. But, you need different tools for different situations. Don’t settle on someone who’s stuck with one type of tool. Make sure that the agency understands what it is you need from them.
  • What is their approach? Do you need someone who will only give you recommendations? How often will they visit your organization to provide advice? Will they provide training and mentoring? Do you need someone to do the heavy lifting? You may already have some great ideas but you’re not sure how to implement them. Do you need a full-service agency? Someone to design, code and implement projects? It all depends on the needs and the budget of your organization.
  • Are they familiar with nonprofits? If they haven’t worked with nonprofits, then ask about their history with for profit organizations. There may be nuances they can learn. Whether it’s a small agency or a large one they shouldn’t work with any of your competitors, but they should still have some familiarity with your organization.
  • How do they actually deliver their work? Take the time to perform due diligence here. Do they build cookie cutter personas? Are they producing content that’s unique and insightful? The right agency will have the credentials you are looking for. A big brand name may not fit the bill.
  • What is their contract like? Good contracts should have flexibility. The contract should spell out what the deliverables look like, how you can terminate and the structure for signing up for months or years. Converting donors takes time. An agency that guarantees immediate success should be viewed with skepticism. It takes time to understand your donors and sift through all your analytics and make sure they are set up correctly. They’ll need to interview everyone on your development and marketing team as well as a sampling of your donors. It’s hard to schedule these events so It’s going to take time to ramp up and achieve success.

Hire the strongest, most capable marketing and communications team your budget will allow and then outsource to fill in the gaps.

Some of those gaps include; the blending of your marketing and technology, dealing with complex messaging like leadership transition or re-branding, and team structure changes such as the resignation of a key marketing leader or if you find yourself constantly over capacity.

Many people believe that marketing is exclusive to the realm of for profit companies.

This is simply not the case.

Nonprofits are competing for donor interest and need to implement an effective marketing strategy to truly stand out.

To find out more, download your copy of 10 Questions to Ask Your Marketing Team About Donor Acquisition Strategies.

You can access it here.