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Why and How to Budget for Your Website and Digital Communications

With the limited budgets that many nonprofits struggle with, prioritizing initiatives like marketing and website development can seem nonessential. However, there are many benefits to implementing a growth-driven approach to modernizing your marketing and website strategies.

Allocating a yearly budget allows your nonprofit to create enough momentum to measure the success of your different forms of promotion over time. Your organization can develop processes and grow your outreach by allowing these powerful tools to be optimized and utilized.

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Why Should Nonprofits Prioritize Marketing?

Marketing is the driving force behind your organization's impact. It's the tool that allows you to grow your organization, expand your reach, and surpass your goals. Marketing can support your organization in these aims:

  • Establish credibility
  • Increase support of your mission
  • Find and convert the audience your organization serves
  • Generate funding and donations
  • Attract constituents you need, like volunteers and supporters
  • Organize action around issues you seek to change
  • Drive social and behavioral change

In order to help your organization stand apart, an optimized website can serve as a revenue generator by increasing lead flow throughout your entire funnel. Starting with the top-of-funnel leads, those who are unfamiliar with your organization, a good website clearly showcases your organization's mission and impact on the communities you serve. This helps convert those visitors into supporters, volunteers, and donors.

Optimizing your website for the first information for the right audience can increase the likelihood of receiving and qualifying for grants. With increased visibility online, corporate partners and sponsors will be more likely to support your organization.

Ready to grow your outreach with marketing? Check out TechSoup's Marketing Services.


Why Should Nonprofits Prioritize Web Development and Maintenance?

If marketing is the force driving traffic and awareness, your organization's website should be the hub to which they are led. A well-designed, responsive website should be the centerpiece of your organization. Your organization's website should

  • Clearly state your mission and values
  • Exhibit upcoming events and collect registrations
  • Position your organization as a thought leader and changemaker in your space
  • Create a space to showcase your organization's impact
  • Encourage social media sharing and interaction
  • Tell a compelling story that leverages emotional reactions
  • Highlight multiple ways to get involved

As a general rule of thumb, you'll want to update your website design and structure every two years to keep up with changing trends and search optimization. However, if your website doesn't accomplish one or more of the goals listed above, it might be time to consider an update sooner. From quick fixes to new website builds to apps and custom development, TechSoup Web Services is here to help.


How Can Nonprofits Budget for Web and Marketing Initiatives?

The importance of prioritizing these tools is clear, but you still might be left wondering how your organization can fit these into your existing budget. Here are three methods that organizations have historically used to determine how much of their budget should be allocated toward marketing and web development.

The Percentage Method

The Percentage Method is a good way to keep your budget healthy in comparison to the overall yearly budget of your organization. Many organizations will group together their marketing into a single line item that includes marketing, fundraising, and communications. The percentage allocated here is typically between 10 and 20 percent, depending on the size, goals, and mission of the organization. This method is beneficial since it allows you to scale your marketing and web initiatives congruent with your overall organization growth.

However, the downside comes in new organizations and those with lower operating budgets. A certain amount of marketing and web development is necessary to grow your organization. This method stipulates that the more your operating budget grows, the more marketing dollars you have at your disposal. Instead, your marketing dollars should be the driving force behind the growth of your organization and marketing budget.

The Dollar Method

The simplest way to budget is the Dollar Method. As its name suggests, this method is implemented by setting a dollar amount that your organization can spend yearly on these initiatives. Typically, this is based on past budgets, the previous year's spending, or the dollars left over after everything else is spent. While this can simplify projections and set clear expectations, the limitations typically outweigh this benefit.

Basing current and future budgets on the past leads to stagnancy. If your organization is growing organically without additional marketing and web budgets, that growth is not being fully optimized or leveraged.

The Incremental Method

The Incremental Method is something of a combination of the other two methods. Starting with a base budget, this method increases or decreases the budget on a regular basis, typically quarterly, depending on the immediate past performance. This can be beneficial since it encourages regular analysis of what initiatives and avenues of communication are working and what is not.

However, the success of initiatives can be dynamic. What works during one season may not work for another. This would restrict the ability to fully test and analyze results over a period of time. The marketing teams will never be able to adequately plan for long-term initiatives. This also makes it difficult to include this line item into yearly grant funding requests, and it makes working with external agencies a challenge.

Adaptive Goal-Based Budgeting

What's the solution then? While each of these methods can be used in a way that works for an organization, there is another method that will help organizations plan. Known as adaptive goal-based budgeting, this method tracks marketing and web's expected and measurable impact on the organization's broader strategic goals.

This method emphasizes the need to have your initiatives driven by SMART goals, or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based goals. Your budget will therefore be continually optimized in a way that prioritizes the tactics and initiatives that create the highest returns. This is better than the Incremental Method because the increase or decrease in the budget is broken down into tactics instead of line items. It is adapted according to the timeline that you determine is sufficient for a given goal, instead of the calendar.

Each dollar spent on marketing, communications, and fundraising has a meaningful return on your organization's goals, and budgets are constantly optimized so that the tactics and initiatives with the highest returns take priority. This allows marketing to occupy the growth driver role it deserves and to truly further your organization's impact rather than simply supporting it.

TechSoup Is Here to Help

Whichever method you choose, having some budget and strategy behind prioritizing marketing and web development can have a huge impact on the success of your organization. If you're not sure where to start, TechSoup is here to help. Our marketing and web experts can help you determine how much of your budget to allocate and how to use those resources to create the highest return on your organization's investment.


Additional Resources

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