The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Get the Budget You Need to Do Marketing Right

The hands-down most hated and most-frequently-avoided marketing task is budgeting. I hear that from you and your peers in the field, time and time again.

But…get over it! I urge you to get past this bias and take the time to absorb this four-part series on budgeting guidelines. You’ll:

  • Learn the value a budget brings to your work as it translates the actions outlined in your marketing plan into expense
  • Discover a completely different way of looking at your marketing work, that serves as a clear framework for your decision-making on wants vs. “nice-to-haves”
  • Create a powerful tool for getting the marketing dollars you need to meet agreed-upon goals.

Here’s a Q&A to help you start building your budgeting skills and confidence right now:

Q: I have a to-do list a mile long. That’s my marketing plan and what I use to create my budget. Or do I need something else, too?

Nancy Schwartz Nancy Schwartz

A: No, Virginia, that to-do list is not your marketing plan! It’s a marketing checklist that you hope will move your organization forward. And I guarantee that, even if you complete every single one of those tasks, you won’t be contributing as much as you could to meeting your organizational goals.

Your current marketing approach is all action, and no traction. You’re generating a stream of one-off marketing outputs that don’t achieve much of anything, and may even alienate your top supporters and prospects.

I urge you to scrap the laundry list and take a one-day marketing planning sabbatical (here’s a marketing plan template to work from). In just a single day, you’ll finish with a much clearer path in front of you to:

  • Direct and prioritize your focus, and ensure you make the most of your budget
  • Know what you are working towards and make the best decisions on how to get there (critical for leadership buy in and ongoing support)
  • Craft an accurate, realistic budget built on logic and strategy, one that will greatly increase your success rate in getting the budget you need
  • Track progress (against concrete, measurable benchmarks)
  • Confidently draft a realistic daily work plan.

You’ll see clearly how much you have to spend to reach your goals and, via tracking results, will gain a sense of what strategies work best to achieve which goals. And when you’re making marketing decisions throughout the year, use the plan as your framework. It will enable you to distinguish “needs” from “wants,” to craft a budget around what really matters. For example, based on your budget framework, you may decide to promote your advocacy campaigns via direct mail and email, text and paid advertising in order to match legislative time frames. At the same time, your budget might indicate that it makes sense to hold off on enhancing your already-strong membership program with the launch of a members-only community.

Dive in now. You’ll never look back!

What’s keeping you from developing the budget behind your nonprofit marketing agenda? Or, if you have one in place, how do use put it to work to move your marketing forward? Please share your budgeting story or question here.

The preceding is a guest post by Nancy Schwartz, Nonprofit Marketing Problem Solver & Coach. With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits like yours develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire your key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights -- and passion -- through consulting, speaking and her popular blog and e-news at

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice