You have spent countless hours creating a marketing and communications strategy and budget for your nonprofit and there is just one thing standing in your way from executing it: board approval.

For many, getting board approval can be a stress-inducing exercise but it does not have to be that way. If you keep in mind that your board is ultimately accountable for the activities of your organization, their need to scrutinize your marketing plan is understandable. The role of the board is to ensure, evaluate and enhance the organization’s work. Whether you are presenting your plan on paper or in person at a board meeting, make sure you are addressing the key areas of concern to your board to get your nonprofit marketing plan approved.

Understand what your board is looking for when reviewing your nonprofit marketing plan. Ask yourself these questions to evaluate how ready your plan is for board review – and approval!

Does your nonprofit marketing plan match the organization’s goals?

Don’t assume this is understood. Clearly demonstrate how your marketing and communications plan will drive your organization’s mission or strategic plan forward.

Have you included multiple stakeholders in your planning process?

Getting input from your donors, volunteers and clients either through focus group testing or surveying them for their opinions will help sell your plan to the board. The board wants to see that the plan was not written in isolation and that you have consulted with others. It will be easier for them to approve your plan if they see you have already received buy-in from other stakeholders.

Are there adequate financial resources for your plan?

Staying within your budget is a key part of getting your plan approved. If you are asking to go over budget make sure you are able to defend why a budget increase is necessary. A good marketing and communications strategy should be integrated, making it difficult to remove one aspect of your plan without it affecting your entire plan.

Have you evaluated the risks of your plan?

The board is accustomed to weighing the risks of their decisions. Identify the risks if the marketing plan is not approved and what the consequences may be to your organization. You should also assure the board that you have addressed any potential issues your plan may produce such as an increase in clients or increased activity on your website.

Have you established outcomes for your marketing plan?

The board wants to see that the investment of time and money into a marketing plan will have a positive impact on the organization. Try to determine the increase in your fundraising revenue or the increase in reach of your programs due to your marketing activities.

Do your planned activities enhance the organization’s brand?

Marketing and communication activities are visible examples of your nonprofit’s brand. Show the board how your marketing plan will boost your organization’s reputation and increase awareness of your cause.

A strong, functioning board of any nonprofit will actively participate in the organization’s programs and goals and a marketing plan is no different. You want your board to see your plan as an integral part of the organization and not a stand-alone initiative. Demonstrate, as much as possible, how your marketing plan mirrors your nonprofit’s strategic plan and it will be much easier for your board to mark your plan ‘approved’.

Suzanne Hallsworth

Suzanne Hallsworth

VP, Development & Communications at Oakville Hospital Foundation
Suzanne Hallsworth is the VP, Development & Communications for the Oakville Hospital Foundation. In her role, she leads the annual giving, community fundraising, and special events teams and develops marketing communication strategies to help the Foundation reach its fundraising goals. Suzanne has been working in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade following an earlier career in the book publishing industry.
Suzanne Hallsworth