Webinar Recap: Make the Case for Marketing Investment at Your Nonprofit

5 min read

During our June webinar on advocating for a strong marketing budget, Alyssa Conrardy, President of Prosper Strategies, was joined by Kevin Radelet, Executive Director of the Leukemia Research Foundation and Tabitha Upshaw, Chief Marketing Officer of Global Wildlife Conservation. In this blog, we share a recap of what they discussed.


This webinar centered on commitment #6 of the Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto, which states: “We will invest properly in marketing and treat it as core mission support, not overhead.” 

During the webinar, Alyssa, Kevin and Tabitha discussed the importance of securing a healthy marketing budget for their organizations and the best ways to secure the marketing investment your organization needs to drive real change.

What Kevin, Tabitha and Alyssa covered:

  • Why investing in marketing is critical for advancing your nonprofit’s mission
  • The three requirements for making the case for marketing investment, which are mindset, marketing budget, and measurement & optimization
  • How the Leukemia Research Foundation and Global Wildlife Conservations, two organizations with very different overall organizational goals and budgets, prioritize marketing and make decisions about marketing investments
  • How to develop a nonprofit marketing budget in alignment with your operating budget and goals and benchmark against other organizations
  • How to make the case for a marketing investment with a leadership team, board, donors or funders who aren’t sold on the importance of marketing

Webinar highlights and timestamps:

  • 9:59: Introduction to Commitment #6, “We will invest properly in marketing and treat it as core mission support, not overhead.”
  • 13:52: Making the case for marketing investment requirement #1: Mindset
  • 15:13: Making the case for marketing investment requirement #2: Budget
  • 24:07: Making the case for marketing investment requirement #3: Measurement & Optimization
  • 27:15: Q&A with Kevin and Tabitha on how their nonprofits make marketing investment decisions that are right for their organizations
  • 1:11:58: Resources to help you go deeper

Q&A highlights

How has your organization’s strategic plan impacted the way you think about marketing investment?

Kevin: Our strategic plan is pretty simple: We want growth. We want to acquire new donors, properly steward existing donors, and we need to reach people of all ages, genders and ethnicities. This is important for our plan because blood cancers can touch anyone. Our organization has rapidly matured over the last 15 or 20 years from a grassroots, volunteer-driven organization to an internationally-recognized leader in blood cancer research. We’ve improved from a one-star to a four-star Charity Navigator rating. Strategically, we’ve become financially stable, and now we want to continue to grow and impact the road to a cure. To serve our mission, we know we need to improve our brand development, our marketing and PR, social media, website design and all of that. In order to do that, you need to invest. And our board has been educated the whole way about that need and has really endorsed it.

How do you decide how much is appropriate to invest in marketing?

Tabitha: The first thing is, “What are the board’s expectations?” They were the impetus for investing in marketing in a bigger way. There is this idea of being a “household name,” and coming from a big consumer-based company like Dell, I know that means investing hundreds of millions of dollars and we’re not quite there. But there are big expectations. I benchmarked with a few small consumer brands because we have very similar work structures and goals. So, with that in mind, I looked at 6 percent of revenue as an appropriate marketing budget, or sanity check.

What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give today’s attendees about their approach to making the case for marketing investment?

Kevin: We all have, if you will, customers. Marketing consists of different strategies and tactics to identify, create and maintain satisfying relationships with all of our stakeholders. So the advice I would share at the heart of all of this is positioning. Positioning flows from the mission and guides us into the future, and works to build the organization’s reputation with the audiences. Positioning is strategic, too. There are few things more valuable than a nonprofit’s reputation. In this changing landscape where nonprofits have to be nimble and quick, proper positioning in the competitive nonprofit world takes on even more importance. So, my advice would be to keep that positioning top of mind. My second piece of advice is ensuring you have your board’s buy-in right from the start.

Tabitha: I’ll reinforce that you absolutely have to think about marketing as a growth driver for the organization and not a cost. It’s a mindset shift for a lot of folks, and if you do marketing right it will absolutely pay for itself.

What’s next?

If you’re interested in learning more about how to create an adaptive, results-oriented budget for your organization’s marketing, fundraising and communications, you can download our helpful guide here.

Our next webinar, “Take Your Marketing Leadership to the Next Level,” featuring Caitlin FitzSimons and Chloe Lahre of OneGoal, will be held July 10 at 2 p.m. ET. The webinar will be focused on Commitment #7, “We will ensure marketing is overseen at the highest level of our organizations and contributed to by everyone on our teams.” We hope to see you there.

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