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Jan 16, 2024

Best Practices for Selecting a Nonprofit Marketing Agency

It is crucial to collaborate with an agency partner who understands your challenges and treats you as a priority, not a secondary consideration based on budget.

How Do I Find the Best Nonprofit Marketing Agency?

If you are a stakeholder in a nonprofit organization, you know that your needs differ from those of other companies. Your nonprofit marketing agency should understand that, too. When it comes to finding the right one for you, it is crucial to collaborate with an agency partner who understands your challenges and treats you as a priority, not a secondary consideration based on budget.

To ensure your goals are met, you should strive for an inclusive and transparent process from start to finish. But how do you weed out the less-than-stellar choices and find an agency you can trust? 

Just ask.

The following questions will guide you in selecting a nonprofit marketing agency that prioritizes your unique needs and mission.

3 Questions to Ask Your Potential Nonprofit Marketing Agency

The best nonprofit marketing agencies possess a comprehensive grasp of the landscape and invest significant time and effort in understanding your company’s mission and objectives, no matter how complex. Before entering a committed partnership, ask the following questions about their team and processes.

Do They Listen Before Ideating?

We’ve all worked with that one Creative Director who believes they are beyond reproach. After little more than a phone call, here comes cliched, pre-vetted ideas that could be applied to almost any company.

But nobody knows more about your company than you and your audience. Your chosen agency should actively seek your guidance and education, comprehensively understanding your organization’s history, challenges, and goals before diving into the creative process.

At Bellweather, we place a high priority on active listening, eliminating any room for guesswork. Our meticulous process involves recognizing and addressing biases, ensuring a fresh and accurate perspective by eliminating clichés.

Rather than relying on a singular viewpoint, we integrate dozens—sometimes hundreds—of views from both your company and our creative minds to cultivate consensus and foster creativity.

When interviewing potential agencies, be sure to request a detailed walkthrough of a past project that demonstrates their commitment to listening and learning. For instance, we take pride in our contribution to the 125th anniversary celebration of the Brooklyn Public Library. This endeavor involved numerous interviews, on-the-ground focus groups conducted in multiple languages, and borough-wide surveys. This thorough initial phase gave us an excellent understanding of how New Yorkers engage with the library and what benefits and use cases resonate most with them.



The subsequent omnichannel anniversary campaign showcased the library’s extensive digital programming and commitment to equity through bold, creative elements designed to stand out amidst the “sea of same.” Thanks to our initial listening and research phase, this approach was championed by the internal staff and its most diehard fans—delivering institutional support and earned amplification from the moment of launch. Our collaboration helped position the library as a contemporary and vibrant institution, leading the way for other cultural institutions in the New York City landscape.

We couldn’t have done it without listening to the client, first.

Will You Be Included in the Process?

Building on the initial listening and research phase, ask your potential nonprofit agency how involved you will be throughout the project’s lifecycle. “Our proprietary process revolves around clients and audiences, encouraging co-creation at every stage.” Bellwether’s Chief Strategy Officer Emily Lessard explains, “In fact, we make it a point to include our clients in the work, cultivating a collaborative atmosphere that guarantees the final result authentically reflects their organization’s vision and values.”

An excellent example of creative collaboration is Bellweather’s rebrand of MetroPlusHealth, a not-for-profit healthcare company made by New Yorkers for New Yorkers. MetroPlusHeath wanted to showcase their inclusive and diverse coverage, a far cry from the traditional for-profit health plans in the marketplace. 

While working on rebrand ideation, we aimed to avoid the generic visuals typically associated with traditional healthcare companies, opting instead to present a distinctive and memorable visual identity that, like the company, was distinctly New York. 

To achieve this, we looked within the ranks of MetroPlusHealth.

All the portrait subjects in the refreshed identity photos were MPH employees, authentically mirroring the audience we aimed to reach. Lesleigh “LIU” Irish-Underwood, Chief Brand & External Relations Officer at MetroPlusHealth, said of the work, “We are so proud to reflect the marvelous diversity of our members because when we see them, we see ourselves!”

Before the launch, we sent the creative assets to each employee’s email address, fostering internal excitement and generating a wealth of organic social buzz for the new identity. Through this experience and others, we’ve learned that involving everyone in the project creates energy and momentum that amplifies the campaign’s impact while also fostering a sense of shared ownership and pride. This collective engagement enhances the success of the activation and creates a positive working environment full of trust and collaboration.

Are They Capable of Creating Work That Transcends the Expected?

What do you see when you picture an ad for a nonprofit organization? A group of smiling kids on a brightly colored background or a serious line-drawn logo on the other side of the same coin? The aforementioned “sea of same” is a massive problem for nonprofits.

Your marketing agency must avoid these overused design tropes and display your uniqueness and value. Millennials, in particular, have grown up on advertising and design and are likely to ignore it if it doesn’t move them. They need brands to lead with emotion–especially nonprofits. Creative visuals must engage on a deeper level in order to stand out. But how?

Our Chief Creative Officer, Louis Lee, says, “Our award-winning work for WorldPride NYC on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising is a great example of standout work that is graphic, emotional, and memorable.” The campaign pairs heart-stopping portraits of LGBTQIA+ leaders and luminaries photographed by Mamadi Doumbouya alongside iconic imagery from the past 50 years of NYC Pride.

Vibrant, moving, and effective, we were proud to use our creative abilities to create work that stopped people in their tracks and brought attention to a cause close to our hearts.

It’s not about the budget

Your campaign doesn’t have to be a big-budget showstopper to shift people’s perception of your brand. A well-thought-out visual design update can have a significant and lasting impact. For example, we admire the work of the fellow nonprofit agency, Cosmic, in redesigning the Santa Cruz Land Trust logo and website. Their endeavors resulted in a modernized visual identity, inviting individuals to connect with the land and become environmental protection advocates through friendly, eye-catching, and colorful designs. The refreshed visuals convey the organization’s philosophy, emphasizing that land conservation should be a living experience for everyone, not just an issue left to higher-ups.




The Best Nonprofit Marketing Agencies Put You First

No matter your goals, the right nonprofit marketing agency will act as a trusted partner from the beginning, listening to your expertise, including you in the entire process, and creating work that breaks through the nonprofit noise to move and motivate your audience. At Bellweather, we consider ourselves an extension of your team, working together seamlessly to elevate your mission and message from listening and research to concept and creation.

Ready to partner with a nonprofit agency that gets it? Let’s collaborate. Send us an email about your project, and we’ll get the ball rolling together.