“It’s the economy, stupid!”


Bill Clinton said it about the economy in 1992 to remind his staff that their focus should be on the end goal. If their concentration wandered away from the economy then no matter how successful Clinton campaigned his results would be marginal. Clinton reminded his staff that true gains could only be made if they spent their time playing in the right sandbox.

“It’s all about the budget (…I’ll remove stupid)”

Similar to Clinton’s reminder to his staff, Development Directors need to remind ourselves that the budget we are targeting is sometimes more important than the case we are making for investment. In other words, if we are dealing with the Manager of the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) group, and that department only has a budget of $100,000, our ceiling for expansion is obviously limited.

The Grand Daddy of corporate outreach budgets is the media budget. A budget, quite frankly, that nonprofits rarely touch… or even target. In this post, I try to offer an overview of the media space and explain why we, as nonprofits, are stronger candidates for these budgets than we probably believe.

Media Planning 101:

Most large corporations retain a media buying and planning agency to help them select the media platforms they will use to advertise their product(s). These agencies oversee and allocate millions of dollars to assure that the brand is choosing media platforms (tv, print, online, radio, etc.) that will reach their targeted demographic in a relevant way. There is often another agency (the creative agency) that develops the actual content for this advertising. The creative agency makes the commercial and the planning agency buys the spots on tv stations, websites, mobile platforms, etc. that will air the commercial.

The goal of a successful media buy is to reach a high percentage of the targeted consumer through a # of different platforms. The whole process is extremely data driven, with planners making their calculations based on the amount of money they will have to pay for each “impression” generated. These planners will pay more for stronger, more targeted impressions (i.e, a face to face interaction versus a thirty-second TV spot) and will use more non-traditional platforms to reach consumers that may not be watching/listening/reading/browsing traditional media.

Do Nonprofits Receive Media Money?

According to the 2011 IEG Report, nonprofits comprise about .7% of the overall media/advertising spend. However, as I discussed in my last post, from a media perspective, nonprofits actually offer a very compelling platform for a number of reasons:

1. Nonprofits function as a cross-platform media channel offering: face-to-faceĀ  interactions (with programming, events, etc); strong website traffic; an engaged and sizable newsletter list; large social networking followings; the ability to “activate their constituents”; and often offer pro bono media relationships (PSAs, online promotions, etc.)

2. Nonprofits, in themselves, are a relatively uncluttered platform from an advertising perspective, reaching an audience that may not be consuming other channels of purchased media.

3. The messaging from a nonprofit is trusted and often requested from their supporters. So, when your brand’s communications are aligned with a nonprofit, the audience is engaged and potentially willing to listen

4. NGO partnerships, compared to other media channels, are relatively cheap

So, at the end of the day, if you are a media planner thinking about how you reach a certain demographic, aligning with a nonprofit makes a lot of sense. To give a more practical example, if you are doing the media planning for Quaker, and your engagement platform is built around the objective of communicating the health benefits of Quaker products to mothers of children 8-13, nonprofits make an excellent media platform. If Quaker found the right nonprofits, they would be communicating with a targeted demographic, in an uncluttered media environment, at a low cost, and their messaging would be hypothetically well received since it is coming from a trusted source. In fact, it would be coming from a source that their target audience (mothers) is often turning to for information about the health and wellness of their child.

So, why aren’t nonprofits a key part of the media strategy?

First let me just clarify something – Quaker has very deep partnerships with a # of nonprofits. However, the majority of the time those budgets are coming from their grassroots marketing team, their Foundation (Pepsi Foundation in this case), or their HR group.

The question is this: Why doesn’t Quaker invest their MEDIA dollars into nonprofits, re-allocating some of their budget away from print, radio, TV, online, etc.?

The answer is not because Quaker’s media team is uninformed or missing the ball! I believe the answer lies in the way we, as nonprofit development professionals approach, measure, and craft the objectives of our corporate partnerships.

I’ll explain what I believe may be the answer to this in the next post. And offer a few solutions that Shared Value Media is implementing in order to make us, as nonprofits, more attractive in the media space…

– Cal Zarin, CEO