Report: Nonprofits Spending Less on Marketing Amid COVID-19 Crisis

A report from the Merkle Group finds that most industries are increasing marketing budgets, but nonprofits are an exception—and the loss of live events is a key reason why.

While most industries are spending more on marketing than usual amid the COVID-19 crisis, there is one glaring exception to that rule—the nonprofit field.

That’s according to a new report from the performance marketing agency Merkle Group, which found that generally, most firms (52 percent) were spending more on marketing since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, with health, insurance, and retail most likely to spend more. But nonprofits showed dramatic differences from the rest of the industries highlighted in the report, with just 17 percent reporting increases in their marketing budgets—and 70 percent reporting declines.

Despite the fact that marketing revenue is declining, nonprofits are largely still attempting to maintain their marketing technology projects, with 61 percent working at an accelerated pace during the pandemic and 30 percent maintaining the same pace. Just 9 percent of nonprofits said such plans were slowed down or paused, a level below any other industry.

In the COVID-19 Special Edition Customer Engagement Report [registration], Merkle Senior Vice President and General Manager of Nonprofits Colin Stewart pinned the decreases squarely on the loss of events revenue.

“With events revenue being wiped out, we’re seeing many large nonprofits trying to balance the need for their programming, staff, and marketing budgets,” Stewart said. “The smart nonprofits are focusing their efforts on localized, relevant messaging and getting more efficient in their marketing spend by focusing on the individuals who can deliver the highest ROI.”

An area where marketing is speeding up in many industries, including nonprofits, is with multichannel addressable campaigns, which target specific people through multiple channels. The Merkle report found that 83 percent of nonprofits saw such campaigns accelerating, a level on par with the health and retail industries and just below the financial industry.

“Our research indicates that despite the challenges, marketers have found a silver lining and adopted new and innovative solutions with customer-centricity as the common theme,” Merkle Senior Vice President of Marketing Strategy Jose Cebrian said in a news release.

The report overall paints a mixed picture for nonprofits, one that also affected related industries, such as TM&E (travel, media, and entertainment), which saw its marketing technology timelines slow down significantly and less of a focus on multichannel addressable campaigns.

(FREDERICA ABAN/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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