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How Nonprofits Can Benefit from Continued Marketing During Times of Change

One of the most valuable assets that any nonprofit can have is consistent marketing and paid advertising data—this is especially true in the midst of a major crisis or shift that deeply impacts society, like tough financial times or global events. 


While most organizations cut their marketing budgets first when times are tough, those who “keep the lights on” typically reap the benefits. By continuing to carefully communicate with their communities, they gain audience insights and trust built on empathy and an understanding of shifting needs. 


Benchmarking, forecasting, and determining how your organization fares with its supporters is difficult when there is a data gap. If you continue to communicate, when the crisis clears, audiences will have heard from and connected with your nonprofit, and your marketing teams will have information available to measure and make better-informed decisions moving forward.


Below, a few of our agency’s top experts share their take. Discover how marketing continuity in these areas can help your nonprofit stay afloat during a societal shift, crisis, or financial downturn and stand out among the crowd.


Push Your Creative Boundaries

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During a crisis or tough economic times, when so many organizations are vying for share of heart and share of wallet, creativity is one of the most effective ways to set yourself apart. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s also the best time to take strategic risks


While societal change or financial instability may make folks more cautious about where they’re investing their money, it isn’t making them less human. They still want to be inspired, entertained, understood, recognized, delighted, and moved. Opting to “play it safe” or scale back on marketing efforts doesn’t accomplish any of those things and surely doesn’t position your organization as a bright spot in an otherwise monotone landscape. 


To stay top of mind when the world is chaotic, you have to push your creativity and your marketing efforts a little bit outside your comfort zone. Until you do, you’ll never know how far you might go.


Keep an Eye on Long Term Brand Strategy

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If organizations are slowing or suspending efforts during a major change or financial downturn, what happens when things turn around? They are behind the curve. Meaning they have to scramble to get back on track and are months, or even years, behind because they slowed or stopped communications.


As a designer, I can attest that organizations need real experts to communicate with their audiences. In addition to messaging and visual design, creative strategy is really important to effectively communicate with audiences. Strategy is vital. If nonprofits want to survive during ups and downs, they need to keep an eye on long-term brand health and strategy.


Adjust + Empathize to Find Your Fundraising Footing

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Finding your fundraising footing can be challenging in times of uncertainty or societal shifts, but don’t stop fundraising! Based on the data, shifting funds away from acquisition spend may become a reality. But, think about which channels are critical and how you can reallocate staff time that would have been used for acquisition to content creation instead.


Think (even more) about tonality, be transparent, and focus on your mission. Additionally, you can apply hyper-segmentation strategies with unique asks to connect with each audience in the most respectful and effective way. And, above all, lead with empathy. 


Hold Steady to Avoid Project Inefficiency

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From an account leadership and project management perspective, it can sometimes add inefficiencies when you stop ongoing activities that you plan to resume later.  Maintaining a steady rhythm for your most important activities, insights, and routines helps you to keep working toward those things more efficiently in terms of effort. 


Whenever you pause marketing activities, you introduce a need to ramp up all over again when you’re ready to resume, which impacts momentum. You might need to take time to relearn protocols, or you may need to reorient your team to expectations and project details. Repeatedly going through an on/off cycle for marketing efforts might save you some small fees in the short term, but each time you turn things back on, you’re adding inefficiency that wouldn’t exist if you kept your marketing efforts steadily active. 


Gain a Competitive Advantage Through Paid Spend

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“Out of sight, out of mind” is true in this case of advertising. Nonprofits that maintain ad spending will gain a competitive advantage over organizations that cut budgets or stop advertising altogether.


After a pause in advertising, there is a loss of market share, and an increased future investment will be required to close gaps. It’s harder for smaller organizations to regain market share than it is for larger organizations with more brand awareness to begin with. Cost efficiencies will be lost when stopping and then restarting paid media, as campaigns will require more investment to spend time to relearn and drive results. 


With Paid Search, by pausing your campaigns, you lose out on share of voice—so you’re allowing competitors to dominate the Search Engine Results Page. Also, when your team misses out on seasonal trends, your nonprofit misses relevant keywords and search terms.


Challenging financial times or societal and economic changes provide an opportunity for organizations to transition away from more expensive mediums, like TV and digital out-of-home ads, to more cost-effective digital advertising channels, like social media, online video, and connected TV (CTV). Nonprofits (and their agencies) should optimize their media mix and invest only in channels that are performing best against key performance indicators (KPI). 


Ultimately, any advertising spend is better than no spend.


Build Stronger Audience Ties with Social Media

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Organic social media doesn’t stop during a societal shift or a financial downturn—so neither should an organization.


While you may need to make some minor adjustments to your paid media budget, you can find additional ways to amplify your message during this time, like partnering with influencers and creators.


Remaining top of mind and finding new ways to engage with your audience is important during societal or economic changes. Don’t abandon your social platforms in crisis or hardship. Use this time to build stronger ties with your audience through compelling and relevant content.



Keep Your Marketing Lights On

Financial downturns and societal change can come with a great deal of uncertainty, especially for nonprofits. While continued marketing efforts can seem counterintuitive in times of crisis, when done well, this strategy actually benefits organizations that continue to communicate with their audiences and collect necessary data for better-informed futures. 


Discover how Media Cause can help you strategically position your organization and connect with your audiences during change, crisis, or financial hardship to help your nonprofit benefit from continued marketing efforts.


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