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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

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How to Defend Your Marketing Budget
Nancy Schwartz

September, 2008

Management's first response to a tight budget is often to reduce expenditures across the organization. After all, that's the best way to balance the budget. Every department suffers equally. Right?

Wrong! Although it may seem right (politically) to accept this decision, it's the wrong move to make. In the long run, accepting a significant budget cut will harm your organization. When a nonprofit cuts marketing, it cuts off one of the hands that feed it.

Even worse, marketing and communications are often cut more than other areas. Our work is sometimes perceived as being expendable, rather than recognized as a critical means of generating revenue, raising awareness, etc.

That's what you have to point out – as diplomatically as possible. Rather than taking a defensive position when faced with budget cuts, proactively respond to your leadership's challenges with either or both of these proposals:
  • Leave our budget untouched, and we will increase X by X in the next fiscal year. Even better, if you will increase our budget by X percent, we'll increase X by an additional X percent.
  • Let the marketing and communications team work with the current budget for the next two years, and we'll deliver an X percent increase in revenues (donor and/or earned income) in that time.
Of course, these strategies require your marketing and communications team to report on concrete results, proving the value your efforts bring to the organization. Examples include:
  • Direct Marketing (email and mail)
    • Response rate.
    • Dollars earned per dollar spent (return on investment, or ROI).
  • Media relations:
    • Development of media relationships.
    • Coverage by media type (newspaper, magazine, Web, broadcast).
  • Public Speaking:
    • Number of speaking engagements and presentations (and audience count).
Whatever you do, don't just give in to a proposed budget cut for your department. Consider the options with as much creativity as you bring to your marketing work. Then shape your strategy and come back with a creative solution that will let you and your colleagues continue to build the bottom line.

Good luck!

© 2002-2008 Nancy E. Schwartz. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing and communications. As President of Nancy Schwartz & Company (, Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to organizations as varied as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Center for Asian American Media, and Wake County (NC) Health Services. 

NOTE: You're welcome to "reprint" this article online as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the copyright and "about the author" info at the end), and you send a copy of your reprint. 


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