Recession Offers Advertising Opportunity for Nonprofits

You don’t have to look at the official figures from Association of Magazine Media (AMM), the trade group for the magazine industry, to see that magazines remain mired in the recession right now in the United States. And that may mean opportunity for your nonprofit.

While it’s hardly scientific, I’m certain I’ve recently seen plenty of ‘space available’ ads going to nonprofits.

For instance, both the ads at the left, from Heifer International and Save the Children appeared in the 6-27-2011 issue of Time Magazine and the 6-27-2011 issue of Sports Illustrated. Both titles, of course, are owned by Time-Warner.

The official numbers suggest the industry has yet to make up the ground lost during the Great Recession. Both ad pages and revenue were up modestly in 2010 over 2009. But 50,000 more ad pages were sold in 2008... the year the Great Recession started... than in 2010. As a result, the industry had $3 billion less in revenue in 2010 than 2008. Among the hundreds of titles tracked by the AMM, overall circulation in 2010 was down 21 million from 2009 and subscriptions alone were the lowest they've been in more than 10 years.

The advertising opportunity for nonprofits is in what’s called ‘space available advertising.’ Magazines (and newspapers for that matter) have long offered nonprofits free ad space based on availability. That is, if they didn’t sell all their adspace, they’d fill it with an ad from a charity free of charge.

Because of the ongoing recession not many publications are selling all their ad inventory.

There’s a catch, of course. Charities have to provide the ads in multiple formats; the publication won’t do it for you. Moreover, every magazine you target will have different requirements. And, not surprisingly, when the people who design pages look for ads that fit the available space they’re more likely to choose attractive ads over ugly ones. In other words, it’s probably best to leave your ad's design to professionals.

Your ads will need a call to action, but you probably can’t get away with direct ask for donations. But check with the magazine first to see what they will and will not allow. And if you’re a charity in Tallahassee, Florida serving teenage mothers, you’re not likely to get into Time Magazine. Although you might get your ad into the Tallahassee Democrat.

When you prepare your ad, consider adding a line that I saw once in a CARE ad: “Space generously donated by this publication.”

Perception is oftentimes reality in this world and it’s better not to let any of your audiences believe that you paid for adspace that might normally cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Add that little line and your charity looks efficient and the publication looks like a hero.