Before deciding to raise money and going through the required processes to comply with IRS law, advocates should ensure that they have a solid plan for spending that money—why, how, and again making sure to comply with applicable state and federal laws and regulations.
E. Spending Money
- Paid media, or the ability to put your own money and investment behind a controlled message, is a helpful way to maintain some ownership and control over how your group or your issue is being talked about.
- Relying on “earned media”—a news story about your group that you do not pay for, something that the media or any other public outlet considers ‘newsworthy’—to promote your message is a gamble. Advocates cannot always control the message, quotations, or the purpose of the story. Earned media can be good, but when your message is time-sensitive or needs to get to a specific audience, it is likely better to be able to spend a little money to get it where it needs to be.
- For many paid ads, particularly on social media, data and analytics are readily available to help gauge impact and guide future advertising decisions.
- For some types of advertising, it might not be as possible to make a quantitative assessment of success; your return on investment might be more accurately gauged by informal measures of success like whether new audiences have seen and understand your mission, increased interest in your issue and/or new volunteer activity, etc.
- Value is a better measure of ROI than simple cost. If you know that your audience faithfully reads a weekly community paper, it might be worth your while to place an ad there, even though it would cost more than a Google display ad or a Facebook ad.
- Try to make sure that viewers of your advertisements are able to perform some action—include a “call to action” that can be easily taken, or a method for interested people to obtain more information and supply their contact info. This can be another way to gauge ROI—if your website gets more hits, you receive more submissions of interest or offers to volunteer, or your phone rings more with general inquiries, that could be a measure of success for your ad spending.