What a Successful Nonprofit Marketing Implementation Partnership Looks Like

6 min read

We know you have big ideas for how to spread the word about your nonprofit. Maybe you’ve even created a marketing strategy. But, if your organization is like many others, you are probably scrambling for the time or staff to actually implement your nonprofit’s marketing tactics. If that’s the case, you’ll likely turn to an agency to augment your own team.  

Hiring an agency is more than just a means to build capacity on your team, though it can certainly help with that. Think of it as an exciting opportunity to bring additional expertise and a fresh perspective to your marketing. In an implementation partnership, the agency will build and deploy the tactics you’ve identified as key to your marketing strategy. Together, you will measurably advance your goals, whether they are reaching new contacts or reengaging lapsed donors.

Hiring an agency is more than just a means to build capacity on your team, though it can certainly help with that. Think of it as an exciting opportunity to bring additional expertise and a fresh perspective to your marketing. Click To Tweet

Just like a nonprofit communications initiative, an implementation partnership requires both teams to follow a number of steps in order to have a successful, productive relationship. When both sides of the partnership commit to these aspects of the engagement, it can take your marketing achievements to the next level. Here’s your action plan for the beginning of an agency relationship:

Designate a clear point of contact on each side 

Nonprofit marketing partnerships should begin by designating a single point of contact at the nonprofit and a single point of contact at the agency. Throughout the engagement, communication should flow through these two people. This is necessary for a few reasons: 

  • Clarifying review and approvals. All feedback from your nonprofit should flow through the point of contact for your team, even if several people have input on it. That way, the agency doesn’t receive mixed messages about when or how to edit their work, and nothing is accidentally “approved” before it should be.
  • Setting priorities. When your nonprofit designates a single point of contact, it ensures priorities remain clear. Multiple points of contact can lead to various internal stakeholders competing to have work finished first or drawing attention away from the most impactful pieces.
  • Maintaining a clear flow of communication. Once each team’s point of contact is set, a regular check-in schedule needs to be established. Most implementation partnerships can be built around short calls every other week, but weekly or monthly calls may be a better fit for some engagements. No matter the schedule, these regular calls ensure the project stays on track and nothing falls through the cracks. 

Share access to all relevant information

In a nonprofit marketing implementation engagement, there are a number of items the agency needs access to in order to do their best work. They generally include:

  • Any marketing and strategic plans that are related to the work the agency will do
  • Examples of writing you do and don’t like
  • Brand guidelines
  • Language guidelines
  • Data from past marketing campaigns
  • Design assets

In many cases, the agency working with your nonprofit will also need access to members or your team and your stakeholders for interviews. Depending on your goals, these interviews may help shape the agency’s writing, media outreach and more.  

Agree on and use a project management tool

To set the stage for a long and successful partnership, both sides need to agree on a project management tool. At Prosper, we use Teamwork Projects. Teamwork allows us to keep all our files and communications organized in on place, so both teams can easily access it. A project management tool like Teamwork also makes it easy for you to catch up any new employees, or to loop in other members of your team when they need access to completed documents. 

Depending on how you work best, your agency can even set up a review task list with deadlines and reminders to help you keep track of what’s needed from you for work to move forward. In our experience, many nonprofits find that this streamlines implementation of their marketing tactics. 

Obtain buy-in from your team, all the way up

No nonprofit-agency partnership can succeed without support from the nonprofit’s management. Without it, you may create fantastic content that is never deployed, or design beautiful collateral that sits on a shelf. Before you begin an agency relationship and at key checkpoints during the process, bring your leadership into the conversation, show them the work and make sure they are on board.  

Commit to a timeline to implement nonprofit marketing tactics

At Prosper, some of our implementation relationships begin with a robust strategy process, in which we conduct in-depth research, reshape an organization’s messaging and develop a marketing strategy. In other cases, we simply come in to help a nonprofit implement marketing tactics from an existing strategy, or even to create tactical pieces when a full strategy may not exist. 

Even if you are not in a place right now to establish a full marketing strategy, it’s critical that you have a timeline for when tactical deliverables should be created and used. An agency like Prosper can help you create this timeline, or can comment on the feasibility of the plan and budget you have in place. This can be as simple as a monthly schedule of when blogs, social media content and whitepapers will be created and shared with your audience. 

In addition to these deadlines, both the nonprofit and the agency should commit to guidelines for how much time is needed for edits to both copy and design work, and on how many rounds of edits are generally expected. Any timeline and discussion of edits should acknowledge the agency’s turnaround time as well as the nonprofit’s. At Prosper, this includes internal review, which means we can’t turn things around immediately, but the product you receive will always meet our high standard of quality as a result.

Finally, both teams must acknowledge that deliverables that require additional rounds of edits may shift the timeline. It’s critical that such a plan be in place, and that both sides of the partnership respect it. Otherwise, the engagement can get stuck in last-minute requests that can’t be fulfilled. 

It may be tempting to kick off a nonprofit marketing implementation partnership without following these steps, but to do so will inevitably impact the quality and longevity of the relationship. Set your nonprofit’s marketing up for success, and you’ll see the results. 

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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