We sat down with Todd Lemke, Publisher of Omaha Magazine, to discuss how to profitably sell advertising to nonprofits—all while providing placements at cost. If you’re thinking about replicating his yearly nonprofit feature in your own magazine or newspaper, here are the key facts you need to know.
What Format Works Best for Nonprofit Ad Features?
Todd Lemke suggests a section comprised of one-page units using a template approach: photos, mission statement, wishlist, and brag lines. This approach works for 3 key reasons:
- You’re asking for information that nonprofits often supply for grant requests and other routine processes.
- A templated approach ensures each page is easy for your staff to produce and is simple for your audience to digest.
- Value proposition is maximized when you price each page at cost versus your normal (read: much less affordable) page rate.
Continue to look for opportunities to sell as you establish your nonprofit feature. In Todd’s case, his team started selling one-third column advertisements for fundraising events. Larger nonprofits now buy both the one-page and one-third column advertisements together.
Fill Out Your Advertising With Adjacent Industries
Omaha’s team has found another way to help the issue succeed: selling ads to venues who cater to nonprofit events, caterers who rely on these events, and other industries that serve the nonprofit world. If there is one chance to get in front of a nonprofit audience, it’s within the issue containing this feature!
Rev Up Your Sales Team to Sell to Nonprofits
“We had to sell the sales team to go out and sell to nonprofits,” says Todd. One method to consider is assigning a new sales rep to the task. Based on the value proposition (and the FOMO created by bundling all of the area nonprofits into a single feature), sales are all-but-guaranteed. This gives greener reps a chance to make easier sales based on price and gain confidence in the process.
Plus, as more seasoned sales reps witness this success, they are more likely to sell this type of advertising to nonprofits in addition to their established books of business.
Once they do, these are easy sales to make year after year. Per Todd, renewal is almost ensured. Omaha’s nonprofit renewal rate for The Big Give (in a COVID year) was an astounding 87%!
3 Tips to Sell Your Feature to Nonprofits
Here are three general tips from Todd to help your pitch to local nonprofits:
- Build urgency. This is a yearly feature, and with 30+ nonprofits anticipated, your readers will be deciding where to donate their money.
- Communicate donation potential. One of Omaha’s advertising nonprofits received a $10,000 check from a reader just because the feature created a strong personal connection. For most nonprofits, the one feature translates to smaller-but-recurring donations.
- Introduce your audience. Help your prospects understand that they have a chance to share their stories with a wider circle of people than a society page or a niche nonprofit-focused publication.
Nonprofits all have good stories. When done right, feature issues are packed with feel-good content that creates a sense of community and drives local engagement.
It's Time to Sell Advertising to Nonprofits The Right Way
In summary, nonprofit features like Omaha’s “The Big Give” are easy to sell, straightforward to produce, and effective at creating long-term local relationships. Over time, when done successfully, you can break the feature out into its own separate issue, complete with overruns for many of the organizations featured.
With thousands of nonprofits in many metro markets, publishers have the opportunity to start small, grow fast, and help more people in their communities than ever before.