How to help nonprofits while boosting your own revenue

Branding - Partnering With Nonprofits

As covered in our Benefits of Building Partnerships with Libraries article, partnering with nonprofits can be a great way to grow non-advertising revenue. It can also be a great way to boost your own brand recognition.

Print magazines help non-profits meet their goals

A few years ago, Lindsay Oberst at observed that publishing their own magazines can help nonprofits meet several goals:

  • Holding on to donors and building membership
  • Increasing donations
  • Building a supportive community
  • Educating people about the cause

And, while some larger nonprofit organizations, like the American Association of Retired People (AARP), the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution, publish their own magazines, it can be difficult for smaller nonprofits to find the resources to sustain their own print publication.

That’s where other magazine publishers can play a role.

How publishers can partner with nonprofits

As nonprofits go, AARP, National Geographic and the Smithsonian have large budgets. They can afford to fill their 501(c)(3) obligation for community outreach through a professionally produced publication. Other charitable organizations are not so well funded. This situation suggests an opportunity for your magazine to step in both to help nonprofits succeed and profit from the partnership.

Ron Matejko at writes that nonprofits “can equal big profits for publishers while providing greater reach and access to new donors for the charitable organizations.” And he offers a few ways to do it:

  • Special issues
  • Custom publishing
  • Events

Special issues highlight charities and build publishers’ revenue

City magazine Hour Detroit publishes Give Detroit, a collection of stories, profiles and interviews highlighting a variety of charities, among them Ronald McDonald House, the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan and the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. Hour Detroit’s staff generates the content and some revenue through sponsorship and paid profiles.

For their part, the nonprofits are able to purchase advertising spreads with one side listing their mission, services and leaders. The other side is dedicated to advertising their organization.

Custom publishing harnesses your expertise to benefit nonprofits

Give Detroit is a good example of a still limited but growing trend toward custom publishing.’s Ron Matejko believes the reason custom publishing is a bit slow to catch on isn’t because publishers aren’t interested; it is, rather, because of limited resources – not enough people to do the work and not enough money to pay for more help.

However, there are indications that special issues and other custom publishing products can bring in new money for your publication. It’s worthwhile for nonprofits to partner with publishers to take advantage of, for example, lower printing and mailing expenses.

Then there are the expertise and skill factors. Nonprofits get access to knowledge and talent they won’t easily find anywhere else. You have access to writers, photographers, designers, artists and other professionals that allow you to put out a high-quality publication. You’re in a position to provide these additional services to paid advertisers to help them create effective ads.

Saving money can even lead nonprofits to invest in paid advertising. After all, there’s real benefit to be had by polybagging the custom-published piece, complete with the charity’s display ad—with an issue of your magazine. It could reach many potential new donors.

Events put nonprofits and publishers in the limelight

Matejko points out that New Orleans Magazine held 30 events in 2016. They ranged from “small happy hours or grand openings to draw customers to a new business to larger events such as fundraisers, festivals, and more.” But New Orleans Magazine is the exception, not the rule.

Once more, the problem is a matter of resources. Events require staff not only to manage them but also to publicize them, and many publishing staffs are already spread thin. The question is whether the time and expense of coordinating events is worth it. The bottom line is whether they bring in enough new subscribers and advertisers to balance the books.

A few ways to make sure your magazine, as well as the charity, reaps the benefits of an event include:

  • Ensuring that your publication is prominently mentioned in marketing materials as a sponsor
  • When appropriate, having a booth at the event
  • Having one of your executives serve as a speaker or emcee
  • Creating premiums printed with your logo
  • Encouraging your staff not only to attend the event but also promote your magazine personally to potential subscribers and advertisers

Of course, partnering with nonprofits to hold events is a good way to enhance your image in your entire community as well as with your readers and advertisers. Good will might not be easily quantified in terms of dollars and cents, but it’s still important to your magazine’s success.

Add some new tools to your competitive toolkit

Events, custom publishing and special issues are just a few of the ways you can increase your magazine’s revenue and profits through partnerships with nonprofits. But they address pain points many charities share: too few staff members, tight budgets and lack of marketing expertise.

By offering your professional services and then delivering them, you stand to develop a long-lasting and profitable relationship.

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