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Does Your Organization Dedicate Enough Resources to Communications?

Posted by on June 2nd, 2011
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Fundraising, Nonprofit Messaging    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

In the for-profit world, the rule of thumb is to spend 20% of budget on marketing and communications. Why should it be different in the nonprofit world? It shouldn’t.

However, most nonprofit organizations allocate less than 5% of budget to communications. This is true despite the fact that nonprofit professionals overwhelmingly acknowledge the importance of communications to achieving their goals.

If your target audiences don’t know about your organization and how your work is making the world a better place, how can they provide the support you need to realize your vision? Investing in communications is the best way to ensure that support.

Effective communications require considerable strategic thinking, soul searching, and planning to:

  • Determine the reputation (or brand) critical to your organization’s success
  • Identify the target audiences needed to accomplish your organization’s goals
  • Develop the messages that will move those target audience to take the desired actions, including financial support
  • Think creatively about how to disseminate those messages to the target audiences

Having spent our entire adult lives working with nonprofits, we fully understand the day-to-day crises that can make it difficult to step back and take the time to think and to plan. And it might be difficult to imagine spending 20% of budget and human resources on communications.

But, don’t let this 20% number scare you. It includes more than what you might now consider communications. This magic number includes all kinds of communications activities by more than just communications staff: emails, direct mail, newsletters, donor appeals, action alerts, phone calls, social networking, advertising, etc., in support of fundraising, marketing, advocacy, and governance.

In other words, communications permeate your organization, and should permeate your strategic thinking, planning, and budgeting.

Giving communications its due both strategically and financially will pay dividends in your organization’s overall effectiveness. This means having a plan and dedicated staff.

Organizations that are more successful communicators are also more successful fundraisers, and better at raising awareness of their issues and affecting public policy, according to the State of Communications study.

How much is your organization investing in communications? Is it enough? What would you do differently if you could?


Susan Alexander is a Mission Minded Senior Strategist. She has decades of experience working with nonprofit organizations as a communications and fundraising consultant.

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