Nonprofits may not be the first industry that comes to mind for advertising. However, most of these organizations have a healthy advertising budget, as it delivers results in capturing donations and volunteers. Nonprofit advertising is something broadcast media sellers shouldn’t discount when searching for new clients.

To guide you in prospecting and pitching to nonprofits, we’re sharing some tips and strategies from our experts.

Annual Reports Are a Wealth of Information

Nonprofits produce reports about accomplishments, budgets, goals and more every year. These are publicly available. If you have a nonprofit on your radar, start with their most recent report. Here’s what to look for, with the most important being budget.

How to Determine Marketing Budgets for Nonprofits

In the financial section of the report, nonprofits will list income and expenses. In expenses, they could include an actual number for marketing and fundraising. Other times, they’ll list it as a percentage of net assets. For example, that percentage could be 2%, and their total net assets are $40 million. That number is then $800,000. Not all of this is advertising spend; there’s also overhead, but it gives you a ballpark. It quickly dismisses the misconception that nonprofits don’t have budget dollars for advertising.

Other Tidbits from Annual Reports

You can also find other information that can be helpful:

  • Types of campaigns: Some reports will include highlights of campaigns and the results, where they might spell out some of the tactics they used.
  • Goals for the year ahead: Identify if the report addresses specifics on what they want to accomplish regarding donations or volunteers. This gives you an idea of what types of advertising they may need to achieve these goals.
  • Decision-makers: Reports include the stakeholders of importance. For advertising situations, that can consist of executive, marketing, philanthropic and event managers. Board members may also influence decisions. Bonus tip: In looking at who is who, determine if you have any connections to these people.

Find Out More Based on Their Digital Footprint

In addition to looking at annual reports, you’ll want to do supplementary research. Visit the organization’s website to understand the cause, how they fund, and the activities and events they hold. You can also learn more about the channels they use to further their mission. This provides you with an overview of where they may be currently spending ad dollars.

For example, social media might be a channel they use consistently and effectively. If so, they may be using it for paid ads. Another is hosting events, whether live or virtual. How do they promote these? Are there any indicators of paid channels they use to complement organic ones?

You’re building a profile of the nonprofit so you can personalize your pitch and proposal.

Key Tips to Deliver a Pitch and Proposal for Nonprofit Advertising That Makes an Impact

The first part of the process after research and qualification is to make contact with decision-makers. No matter the communication channel, make it personal. Use what you learned to connect with the person and to demonstrate you understand their model and needs. Then, let them tell you their goals and what advertising types they are using now. From that, you’ll want to develop a customized pitch and proposal.

Here are some ideas on what and how to present to them.

Align ad ideas with national days, holidays or commemorations that the organization wants to highlight.

Here’s a great example: Catalyst is a nonprofit that supports women’s equality in the workplace. They launched ads around International Women’s Day, swapping out negative words used to describe female leaders with ones that didn’t include gender bias.


This type of campaign is something you could suggest for a variety of nonprofits. Taking advantage of a commemorative day, month or week increases the campaign’s visibility.


Make causes relatable by tying them back to everyday life.

It’s easy for people to not think about the strife of others. For nonprofits to gain donations and volunteers, they need to speak to those people in a way that makes them look outside their bubble. It’s hard for most people to fathom not having food, yet it’s an issue locally and globally.

Creating ads that capture what it would look like for the Average Joe to face food insecurity could be a catalyst for action. The ad’s content is what matters most, but so is where you place it. Video and OTT/CTV can drive engagement. Social media ads let you target their ideal donors. OTA spots offer a broad reach.

For these ads to produce results, they’ll also need a clear CTA (call to action) for viewers to take the next step in supporting the cause.


Drive event attendees by using multiple channels.

Most nonprofits have at least a few big events each year. They are often their most significant funding opportunities. Talk to advertisers about how they’ve previously promoted these events and how they are looking to grow them.

In many cases, they may only be using a few channels, like email marketing and website promotion. There are so many more ways that have targeting capabilities, including display, video and social media. Spell out how investment in an integrated campaign can deliver better results.


Tap into storytelling.

Storytelling is one of the most impactful types of marketing. That’s what nonprofits have as an advantage. They help real people who are happy to talk about the experience. Discuss with them how they can do this to gain more donation dollars. Again, video will be the best option here, and you can provide some video resources to get them started.

These videos can have many different uses in both paid and organic channels. Getting more stories out to the community is an advertising tactic that can deliver a substantial ROAS (return on ad spend).

It’s Time to Reconsider Targeting Nonprofit Advertising

If you can effectively qualify that a nonprofit has a healthy marketing budget, you should consider them a great target. Your expertise in advertising and the local ecosystem can give you an edge. Remember to do your research and come prepared with specific ideas on creative, channels and budgets. It could win you their business for now and years to come.

Want more great ideas written by and for broadcast sales experts?