Mary claire working on laptop

3 Common Marketing Obstacles for Nonprofits (and How to Overcome Them)

Marketing is challenging, even if you’re a trained professional. It’s no wonder why many nonprofits, with small staffs and bootstrapped budgets, struggle to market their organizations well.

Over the years, we’ve served many nonprofits across a spectrum of industries. In that time, I’ve noticed three common obstacles most organizations face when it comes to their marketing. Knowing these challenges—and more importantly, knowing how to overcome them—will set you up for success in the long run.

Nonprofit Marketing Obstacle #1: Finding and keeping great talent

Your marketing will only be as good as the people leading it. The reality is, it’s difficult to find and retain high-quality talent if you’re a nonprofit organization. Why? Because great people can typically be paid better elsewhere, and there’s often little room for advancement. If your organization can only afford to pay a lower-than-market rate, your best option is to find someone who deeply believes in your cause and is willing to work for less. (Psst…these people are rare!)

How to overcome this obstacle:

Have realistic expectations and invest in your people. Hire slowly to find the right person, invest in their professional development, and empower them to come up with fresh ideas for the organization. Talented people stay where they can grow their skills and tackle new challenges. 

Nonprofit Marketing Obstacle #2: Not having a “marketing-friendly culture”

Many organizations don’t have what I would call “a marketing-friendly culture.” And it’s  understandable—nonprofits are typically known for their program or service: after school programs, feeding the hungry, job training, etc. Naturally, their culture attracts people who want to be involved in delivering the programs. Organizations often don’t know what to do with people who want to market their programs because their culture views marketing as less valuable than the services they provide. As a result, marketing lacks the talent and investment needed to generate a return.

How to overcome this obstacle:

First, remember that marketing is an essential component of a thriving organization. If no one knows about the work you do, how do you hope to find new donors and expand your impact? 

Second, find ways to celebrate your marketing team’s efforts publicly. Through your actions, show your staff that the marketing team’s work is every bit as valuable as the program team’s work.  

Third, keep this in mind: some organizations probably shouldn’t hire internal marketing staff. If your executive director has never managed a marketing team, it may not be wise to build an internal marketing team. You may achieve better outcomes by outsourcing your marketing efforts. 

Nonprofit Marketing Obstacle #3: Inconsistent marketing efforts and investment

Marketing requires consistent capital. You’ll only experience a return on investment with a steady cadence of communications. Unfortunately, many nonprofits’ marketing efforts are ad-hoc and intermittent at best. Updating your website every few years and writing one blog post a quarter isn’t enough to engage an audience.

How to overcome this obstacle:

Remember, marketing is like farming. You have to prepare the soil, plant the crops, and tend to them regularly if you want good things to grow. Sporadic efforts will not produce the desired results. Figure out a solid marketing strategy, and follow through on it consistently. And remember, dedicated efforts will require dedicated finances. You’ll only get a return on your marketing investment by making an actual investment. Take some time to re-evaluate your marketing budget.

A Better Way for Nonprofits to Do Marketing

At Roundtree, we help nonprofit organizations clarify and amplify their marketing to grow their donor base and increase their impact. Using a holistic, integrated approach, we work closely with our clients to understand their needs and meet their marketing goals. 

But don’t just take my word for it—consider this: in 2023 alone, we helped our clients raise over $110 million.

To learn more about our holistic approach, drop us a line below and discover how we can help your organization overcome obstacles to reach your goals.

I’m ready for results.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


P.O. Box 2541
Chattanooga, TN 37409

[email protected]

instagram icon  facebook icon  twitter icon  instagram icon  vimeo icon



Stay up to date with the latest from Roundtree.

By subscribing, you're opting in to receive emails from us. And we're promising not to spam you.