The scenario is all too common — you spend hours crafting a marketing strategy for your organization that includes all of your big campaigns, marketing channels and a new initiative or two to experiment with. Only to have all of your carefully strategized marketing priorities thrown out the window for “urgent request” after “urgent request.”

Because no one can do it all. If your marketing strategy is constantly getting pushed aside for requests from other team members or departments, there are a few strategies that we’ve found helpful both for our own marketing strategy and for those of the organizations that we work with.

Start with a Solid Marketing Plan

The first recommendation is a solid marketing plan. But by solid, I don’t mean packed with everything you’ve ever wanted to try to the point where you wouldn’t be able to accomplish it even if everything went according to plan.

A solid marketing plan takes you and the rest of your organization’s capacity into account. It incorporates the promotions and campaigns that you know about during the planning process. And it leaves time and other resources for the inevitable marketing requests from other departments and team members.

Questions to Ask Before Agreeing to a New Request

Leaving room in your marketing plan for other requests does not mean that you can or should ditch the marketing priorities that you’ve so thoughtfully strategized. 

Ask yourself the following questions before taking on any new project, responsibility or task — no matter how “urgent” it is or is not.

Does it have to happen for some reason?

If the request truly needs to happen for a very logical reason, be that reason legal, a direct and substantial impact on your mission and work, or otherwise, there is not much room to get around it. These are the requests that you left room for in your marketing plan, like crisis communications.

Can it wait or is it really important to do now?

If the request can wait until you work through your highest marketing priorities, give yourself that time to work toward the goals that you’ve already set. And for those that can’t wait, check out these tips for dealing with last-minute panic.

Does it move our marketing, fundraising or organizational goals forward?

If the request has a good chance of supporting your organization’s goals, that should definitely be taken into consideration as you weigh whether or not to take on a new task. But if not, the marketing priorities that you’ve outlined in your plan should take precedence.

You might also think ahead about measurement as you consider what will or will not make headway toward your goals. Are you able to measure the impact of this request on your goals? While not a sole reason not to take on something new, an inability to measure the impact of something makes it more difficult to optimize and build on in the future.

How much time will it take?

And is that time ongoing or is it a one-time deal? A nonprofit marketer’s time is valuable. Taking on new time-consuming tasks that don’t move the needle for your organization’s goals is time wasted.

What gets put on hold to make it happen?

You cannot perform miracles, and your organization should not expect you to. When we take on a new project, that new thing takes time and energy from something else (be that something in your marketing plan or from one of the other areas of your work).

Is this new thing more important? If not, then you have your answer. If you work with a marketing manager or supervisor, don’t be afraid to explain the situation and get their sign off on whatever gets put on hold. This helps get everyone on the same page and gives you some back up, especially for a marketer without a lot of positional power.

Can anyone else on the team help with or support this new initiative?

Or would it be solely the marketing team’s (or your own) responsibility? If the requester or another team member is willing to take on some of the work to make the new project happen, it becomes easier for everyone. After all, teamwork makes the dream work.

Have we tried this in the past and seen results?

If you’ve already experimented with this tactic and saw poor results, what are you planning to do differently? Is that enough to steal the priority from proven tactics? Despite how good an idea sounds in principle, the results can speak for themselves. Unless you’ve found the secret linchpin to turn the project around, focus on your higher marketing priorities.

Marketing Priorities That Make the Most of Your Time

Prioritize the work, both planned and otherwise, that makes the most of your time. Think about measurement, what has or has not worked in the past and what you know about your target audience. Consider your nonprofit’s goals, marketing, fundraising, organizational and any other internal goals you may have. What will it take to reach them?

Looking at the marketing initiatives and requests:

  • What do you think will move the needle the most? These are your marketing priorities.
  • What can I stop doing to make time for higher priority tasks? These are on the cutting block when new requests come in.

New requests that make it through the list of questions and rank high in your marketing priorities should absolutely be accepted. But how many of the “urgent requests” that you take on throughout the year can you say that about? Having a strategy in place to weigh your organization’s current priorities can help you focus on what matters the most and not on what won’t. And when you’re consistent with prioritization, I think you’ll find that saying “no” to new requests becomes less and less scary. 

How does your organization determine marketing priorities? Any other questions that help you decide whether or not to take on new marketing work? I want to hear them in the comments.