On-Retainer Expertise: A Guide to Outsourced Marketing for Nonprofit Leaders
The balance of nonprofit structuring often has leadership facing a constant puzzle: How do we make a profound impact while ensuring financial sustainability? One of the pieces in this puzzle is marketing and communications. More specifically, the challenge of optimizing marketing efforts to drive impact and secure vital funding. Outsourced marketing services offer a potential solution to this conundrum, but through conversations with leaders in the nonprofit space, we hear some recurring questions about decision-making and prioritization around outsourcing marketing or hiring an on-retainer marketing team.
Here, we shed some light on the benefits and considerations for nonprofit leaders looking to leverage this approach. We even pulled Fervor Founder and CEO Mike Farag into the conversation to tap into his 20-plus years of marketing and strategy experience—the last 15 of which have had a dedicated focus within the nonprofit space. He kicked off the conversation by offering a helpful framework by which to understand outsourced marketing services, i.e., to see it as a form of fractional purchasing.
Understanding Outsourced Marketing Services
Nonprofit organizations have leveraged the fractional purchasing and fractional services model for decades. In the nonprofit sector, it was first seen in areas of accounting or financial services where a nonprofit’s CFO role and tasks were outsourced to an accounting firm. This practice has now permeated the marketing sphere, offering nonprofits an efficient way to address their diverse marketing needs. “As I engage in conversations with leaders across the sector,” says Mike, “it’s evident that nonprofit leaders are beginning to understand the big-picture benefits of outsourcing or procuring fractional expertise—in various areas of nonprofit management. Marketing is one of the crucial ones.”
Nonprofit leaders are waking up to two truths when it comes to marketing:
- One communications expert can not cover the many specialized areas of marketing. “It’s not about finding a marketing Swiss Army knife; it’s about recognizing the distinct expertise needed for various aspects of marketing,” explains Mike. By outsourcing, nonprofits can tap into a pool of specialized experts who excel in areas such as managing campaigns, handling websites, and executing paid media strategies.
- Creating and managing an in-house marketing team or (accumulating a team of freelancers to use on a case-by-case basis) is often not the most efficient route. Rather than bearing the expenses of recruiting, training, and cultivating in-house talent, nonprofits can outsource high-level strategic work to external agency partners who are poised and ready for action.
The Value of Outsourced Marketing
So, what does having a single point-of-contact team of experts have to offer nonprofit and faith-led nonprofit organizations? We’ve identified three key benefits:
Outsourcing accelerates the marketing process, allowing nonprofits to adapt swiftly to changing needs and market demands. Nonprofits can avoid the time-consuming process of recruiting and training internal teams by accessing ready-made expertise.
Higher Output and Quality:
The specialized skills brought by external experts elevate the quality of marketing efforts, leading to more successful outcomes for fundraising campaigns, volunteer outreach, web development, and more! Outsourced agencies deliver campaigns and marketing initiatives that are backed by relevant and recent successes as well as cross-industry innovation. Your organization will reap the benefits of their experience, which manifest as greater effectiveness and impact.
Accurate Representation and Consistency:
Nonprofits often struggle to match the magnitude of their mission and impact with an accurate and effective external representation. “I hear this from clients and perspectives regularly,” shared Mike, “Leaders and staff alike are concerned that their marketing doesn’t match the amazing work they do.” Outsourced marketing ensures that messaging accurately reflects the organization’s excellence and, further, sustains consistency over time, through various media and channels.
Ultimately, the cohesive approach of an outsourced team helps align marketing and donor communication, fostering a deeper connection with your audience. It’s what we at Fervor refer to as finding your Ideal Advocates.
Choosing the Right Outsourcing Model:
Navigating the realm of outsourced marketing is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Nonprofit leaders have the option to fully outsource their marketing and communications efforts or opt for a hybrid model. A hybrid model involves having a marketing team in-house and outsourcing particular marketing services. How you choose your model is entirely dependent on the realities of your particular organization: your goals, the variety of your programming, the funding structures and concurrent fundraising needs, the size of your team, and of course, the resources available to you.
Small and mid-sized organizations can effectively outsource all their marketing, essentially positioning their marketing agency to be a Marketing Director and Marketing Team in one. This allows for a holistic, streamlined, and cost-effective approach and frees up organizational staff and leadership to focus on core services and mission. Larger organizations with complex sets of programming generally tend towards the hybrid model and rely on their in-house teams to coordinate with external agencies.
Choosing the Right Tasks to Outsource
The strategic delegation of tasks becomes paramount when you opt for a hybrid model. Outsource the tasks that require higher expertise and/or involve intricate timelines.
For example, agencies are particularly adept at handling the intricacies of managing giving campaigns, including paid media and creating landing pages. Outsourcing website management is another straightforward solution for nonprofits, given the challenges of retaining in-house web developers within a nonprofit setting. The nuanced complexities of managing paid media, encompassing grant and cash campaigns, make it a prime candidate for outsourcing.
As nonprofits delve into advanced initiatives such as donor engagement and elevated marketing communications, outsourcing your content, email, and social aspects allows you to maintain holistic content marketing strategy and outcomes. Finally, a noteworthy trend to explore is the outsourcing of fractional roles, like a fractional director of marketing or engagement specialist, to help optimize resources and augment marketing effectiveness.
Ultimately, understanding your marketing and communications needs is crucial to structuring your marketing outsourcing decisions. “It’s not about fitting into a predefined model; it’s about tailoring strategies for success,” advises Mike. “In fact, that process of discovery, understanding your marketing needs and goals, is so vital, it’s part of the reason why Fervor created the Brand Impact Assessment.”
Choosing A Partner with a Nonprofit Specialization
Unlike generalist agencies, agencies like Fervor that specialize in the nonprofit sector offer a depth of experience and insight that goes beyond standard marketing expertise. In fact, as an agency specializing exclusively in nonprofit marketing, Fervor brings a unique perspective and unparalleled level of expertise to the table.
Unlike agencies that serve a broad range of clients, agencies that are dedicated to nonprofits possess an in-depth understanding of the unique challenges and needs inherent in this field. This focused commitment translates into practical benefits and honed expertise in areas that are particularly relevant to nonprofits.
For example, Fervor has extensive experience in successfully executing hundreds of year-end campaigns and other donor engagements. We also specialize in content marketing and messaging strategies that pertain to addressing diverse audience segments. Unlike corporate-focused agencies, which are primarily geared toward product marketing and addressing consumers, Fervor’s approach includes messaging for donors, program participants, and various other stakeholders.
Fervor also appreciates and conducts strategy within the nuanced difficulties nonprofits encounter, such as working within limited budgets or running multiple lines of service. This expertise is especially crucial in the present financial landscape, where fundraising trends all point to giving becoming increasingly pressured in 2024. “We’re not just dipping a toe into nonprofit waters; we’re swimming in it. Fervor understands the unique challenges nonprofits face because that’s our exclusive focus,” asserts Mike.