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“You must spend money to make money”

A popular idea for sure, but what happens when that money is not yours, a loan from Great Uncle Henry or a bank or even investors, but donor dollars for a worthy cause or organization?

Not-for-profits, like most public businesses, have to account for every dollar, but the need to justify each expense weighs more heavily on leadership. Every expense is measured, analyzed, scrutinized and essentially put under the judgmental microscope of lay leaders and donors alike.

How then can an organization reliant on sharing (spreading) its information to potential donors, specifically sophisticated, monied donors do that without breaking the delicate balance of successful, targeted marketing and promotion and wasteful extravagance.

Digitalthe internet is free, right?

Um, no, but let’s pretend it is for a few minutes…

Digital platforms are fast and allow you to meet tech-savvy donors where they’re at. It’s much easier to put together an email newsletter than print and there’s always social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, etc., text messaging, websites and WhatsApp.

The benefits are great: speed, economy (in most cases), connectivity and a great way to cultivate relationships.


Printit’s so old fashioned, right?


Think about your own experiences with print marketing materials…brochures in a waiting room, a flyer in the mail, a menu on your car windshield, an ad in a magazine or you may have even walked past a movie poster. Print is still a popular marketing approach despite the rise of digital.

There’s still an older (often more affluent) audience that is most effectively reached through print materials. Personalized letters can often separate one program from the next and print, direct mail campaigns specifically, are almost always profitable.

But, multi-piece mailings and branded suites of materials are expensive to produce – especially for a broad audience, right?


YES! Right! to all of the above.

Print and digital each have unique benefits, costs and success rates. All that proves is that using one platform exclusively is not the best way to optimize results. Like any campaign, the best approach is one that will meet the needs and reach the heart strings of the prospects with most potential. The best way to do that is through an integrated, multichannel marketing approach; catering your promotional materials to unique audience segments and reach as many of your supporters and donors as possible.

Great! Now you have a plan – you’re going to reach the largest possible audience using every available form of messaging to the best advantage.

Every piece will look great, read like a cross between Harper Lee’s prose and Jay Z’s lyrics, and be readily recognizable and present an articulated brand message.

Oh, and you’re going to do that for a dollar amount that won’t raise any eyebrows!

Seriously! I’m not kidding – you really CAN DO IT. You need a plan and have to follow a few simple steps, but sophisticated and effective fundraising efforts can be achieved with respectable budgets for any size organization – no matter your audience.


Acknowledge, that monies will have to be spent. Determine a budget that meets with your organization’s financial structure.

Not-for-profits are similar to for profit organizations as they share both hard and soft basic operating costs, but not-for-profits have an additional cost of doing business and that is the costs of fundraising. From design and possibly creative strategy to promotion/advertising costs printing and mailing, budgets need to be identified for that, costs and plans to analyze successes and ROIs laid out from the outset.


Identify your existing resources.

No one knows your organization better than you! An organization’s in-house professional staff know the narrative better than anyone. You may need to tap different staff members – as each have unique interactions with constituents, members or even adjacent constituencies and most importantly donors.

Craft your own message. Use your words. Your knowledge and experience – past, present or future, you know the wants and needs of your audience best.


Evaluate your external resource needs. Interview vendors, set strict briefs, budgets and timelines.

Your expertise and organizational knowledge identified in Steps 1 and 2 are of great import here. You need to find the vendors that complement your existing resources the best and match those to your budgets and timeframes.

Do your homework, research and take the time to meet with different people. The best partnerships, creative, strategic, and otherwise stem from smooth and professional interactions. You don’t necessarily have to like a person or team working for you, but you must respect them and believe they respect you and yours.

STEP 3A – this is potentially the most important

Determine what can be repurposed for varied media, later use and other promotional efforts.

This is the best bang for your buck mentality. Anything written, designed or strategized for one purpose is fodder for any other. Pages of an annual report can be repurposed for social media posts; a President’s Letter or case study can be used for direct mail, email newsletters and for the aforementioned annual report.

Keeping that in mind and sharing the objective with your external resource teams can not only offer financial benefits but create a well-honed brand and consistent messaging throughout a campaign or fundraising season.

Knowing your audience, setting precise goals, capitalizing on your strengths and finding the resources (and capital) to complement them is an expense but it’s the necessary cost of fundraising in today’s marketplace.


Carrie R. Beylus

Principal/Creative Director, Why Not Communications

Carrie R. Beylus

Author Carrie R. Beylus

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