How to Find the Right Marketing and Communications Agency for Your Nonprofit

5 min read

It goes without saying, finding a marketing and communications agency for your nonprofit is an important decision, and it can feel like you have a lot on the line. However, the right partner can help build your confidence and internal credibility during the hiring process, while working with you to navigate the dynamics of decision-making at your organization. The time before you start your work together should be the opportunity for both you and the agencies you’re considering working with to get a feel for what it might be like should you decide to partner together. 

I always say to potential clients, your success is our success. The end goal is a mutual fit relationship. From your perspective, you need to find the right agency to help you meet your nonprofit’s marketing goals. Agencies should be asking the right questions and speaking to the right people within your organization throughout the decision-making process to ensure they are best suited to meet your needs. Let’s dig into some things you can do during your decision-making process to select the right marketing and communications agency for your nonprofit.

Identify where an agency will be most helpful

When approaching an agency, you may have an end goal or objective in mind, such as: “We’d like to increase our reach to individual donors, ” or “We need clear and consistent messaging.” You may even know exactly what you think you need the agency to do. Having clarity on the outcomes you want to achieve going into the hiring process is helpful, and particularly important for aligning internal expectations. However, I’d encourage you to keep an open mind about the exact path you’ll need to take to achieve your goals. Let agencies bring their perspective, expertise and experience to help you define the approach and deliverables that are going to help you best meet your goals.

Determine your budget 

There are many ways to approach nonprofit marketing and communications challenges, so letting firms know your budget from the onset helps everyone get creative about the best ways to approach the work. If you have no idea what working with a firm might cost, reach out to a few folks you’re interested in partnering with, set up a brief phone call and let them know you need some budget guidance. 

There are many ways to approach nonprofit marketing and communications challenges, so letting firms know your budget from the onset helps everyone get creative about the best ways to approach the work. Click To Tweet

Once you have an idea of costs associated with working with an agency, you can get the necessary internal approvals to move forward. Some questions you’ll want to consider answering before going back to firms to discuss the parameters for working together include: Is there already budget allocated? Do you need to fundraise specifically for marketing efforts? Does the board need to give budget approval? Once you know the answers to these questions and have an understanding of your budget, you can start having more specific conversations with firms about what their approach to your project might look like.

Commit to conversations

If you’ve followed our blog for some time now, you probably know that Prosper Strategies doesn’t typically respond to RFPs. It’s in large part because the relationship aspect of our work is so critical to our clients’ successes (and therefore our success). We can’t get to know you, nor you us, through a series of written communications. Lack of conversations also limits agencies’ ability to get to the heart of what you really need and to develop creative ways to help you tackle your challenges and achieve your goals. Not to mention, hiring an agency is not just an important decision, it’s an important investment. You wouldn’t hire an employee after only reviewing their resume and cover letter, would you? 

Involve others early in the decision-making process

The best way to derail the process of hiring a firm is to bring important stakeholders into the process at the end, as the final sign-off or stamp of approval. We’ve seen organizations head into a tailspin every time nonprofit leadership or board members come into the process at the very end.

So, once you’ve identified a few firms you might be interested in working with, involve others within your organization early on in the process of selecting a firm. This is particularly important if there are folks at your nonprofit who have expressed interest in the project or who will need to work directly with the firm or weigh in on the work you do together. The more exposure and involvement these individuals have in hiring the firm, the smoother things will proceed because expectations should be aligned from the outset. 

Look for agencies that work with nonprofits

Nonprofits have unique dynamics that involve multiple stakeholders. The sector addresses challenging and often sensitive issues. As nonprofit communicators, we have an important responsibility to represent those we’re on a mission to serve in ways that are empowering, and in ways that lift those around us up. This is done by engaging diverse stakeholders throughout all of your communications initiatives. 

And, by working with a firm that understands the importance of this stakeholder engagement and the nuances of the nonprofit sector, you’re truly bringing in not just extra capacity, but expertise that’s going to help you grow your team and your impact.

The Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto

For far too long, the nonprofit sector has thought far too small when it comes to marketing. Read the Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto to change your perspective on how marketing for nonprofits can — and should — have an even bigger impact.


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