The Many Fulfilling “Pros” Of Pro-Bono Projects

Whether angry over a cheap dress that didn’t wash well or regretting the late-night street meat that they ate, most people have heard or used the idiom, “You get what you pay for.” However, this doesn’t have to ring true for nonprofits looking for quality marketing strategy and creative with small or non-existent budgets.

Employees at Martino Flynn and most advertising agencies look forward to the rewarding challenges of working on pro bono projects. It’s no secret that those of us who chose a career in advertising are typically passionate by nature. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are incredibly energetic about our community and the causes near and dear to us. Whether it’s increasing attendance at a breast cancer gala or helping with creative for a large capital campaign, we are sure to give it our all. Here are a few reasons why, for us, pro-bono projects are worth more than just giving away free work to check off a box.

Giving back: In an industry known for long hours, many of us have little time outside of work and our families to volunteer in the community. Taking on pro-bono projects in the office allows us to use our skills to benefit important causes without taking hours away from our already time-strapped lives. Sometimes, we even happily skip into the office on a Saturday or Sunday to work on pro-bono projects that we couldn’t fit into the workweek.

Challenging goals: Although pro-bono creative projects tend to grab the heart strings and win awards, they also often have big goals to achieve. From increasing cancer screenings to decreasing high school dropout rates, our nonprofit partners need more than just good-looking creative; they need great creative that’s also effective.

Challenging budgets: Nonprofit project budgets are usually incredibly small or non-existent, leading to the need for creative workarounds such as donated media, gorilla marketing tactics, and out-of-the-box PR. These brainstorming sessions challenge us to think creatively, leading to new budget-saving ideas for our for-profit clients.

For these and other more personal reasons, Martino Flynn employees give our pro-bono clients way “more than what they pay for.” And we always get way more back than we put in.

Marketing is food, not medicine

Destroying the myth: cutting marketing budgets during financial crisis is a “smart move”

“When things turn around, I’ll make marketing a priority again”.

Eliminating the brand enhancement and lead generation that marketing provides will likely only make it more difficult or even prevent things from “turning around.” When facing financial hard ships, you should run to marketing investments, not away from them. Data suggests that marketing budget cuts may be the most costly of all, and among the hardest to overcome.

Whether you’re a newer company, or a business that has been around the block, marketing is essential to your longevity. Companies that do not invest in marketing are often unable to retain their market position for long and will likely experience a loss of existing customers and difficulty winning new ones. Customers are at the core of any business. To think that marketing is not essential to a company’s success could prove to be a costly mistake.

A recent study conducted by IMPACTS examined organizations that had recently cut their marketing budgets by at least 15%. Results were shared in an article by Colleen Dilenschneider on her blog, Know Your Own Bone. The overarching result is that cutting marketing budgets negatively affects attendance. Not only did the study show that cutting marketing budgets decreases website visitation, but it also noted that attendance is not immediately recovered when marketing budgets are restored. Cutting marketing budgets is the “gift that keeps on giving” for two reasons, that are also correlated:

  1. Lost word-of-mouth endorsements: less visitation means less top-of-mind conversations that customers are having about their recent experiences with an organization.
  2. It is far less expensive to retain your audience than to reacquire them: the organizations that cut their budgets and then decided not only to reinstitute their original marketing budgets, but also to add funding, were still unable to gain their audiences back.

That being said, it is important to know which marketing investments make sense for your business. Calculating ROI is a necessary evil in the marketing world, especially for businesses that are under financial pressure. However, one of the difficulties with marketing is that results are rarely immediate and occasionally unquantifiable. This is less often the case in today’s world, but it is still an evergreen obstacle. When you measure ROI you can make educated decisions on which marketing investments are worth pursuing, and which ones are not. Some marketing tactics are easier to access ROI than others. If your organization is going through financial hardships, it could be worth the time to investigate options that have a clear path to reach ROI data.

In a post by Springboard called “Don’t Cut the Marketing Budget”, the marketing agency offers some alternative ideas to try instead of cutting your marketing budget:

  1. Try increasing your outreach instead of decreasing it. Even in tough economic times, your services are still needed.
  2. Shift your budget to the most influential marketing tactics. Review their effectiveness and tweak when necessary.
  3. Take advantage of technology! Increasing your social media exposure might take time, but the financial investment is minimal.
  4. Marketing should be thought of as a “revenue generator.” Without it, staff may find difficulty promoting products and services to potential customers.

Bottom line: there is a need for consistent marketing for brands to stay top of mind. Do not use marketing like it’s medicine to fix a problem; use it like food to help nourish and grow your brand!

To learn more about marketing trends and consumer behavior, contact us at 585.421.0100.


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