Advertising on nonprofit websites?

Photo by aileron

I was recently asked what I thought about nonprofits selling space on their website for advertising. I will tell you what I told them. I think it is a bad idea.

It’s one thing to sell space (typically in the form of a sponsorship) for your nonprofit event’s program, but it is something else entirely to put advertising on your website. There are 2 main reasons why I think it is a bad idea:

  1. Dilutes your mission/compromises your website: By selling ads on your website you may put at risk the integrity of your website and organization (there is a reason nonprofits don’t sell ad space on their websites). Additionally, ads on websites rarely are attractive, plus depending on the ad it can negatively affect your brand. Also, ads on websites can be distracting- and you don’t want people clicking away to check out a book on amazon- you want them clicking to your donation page.
  2. Appearance = reality: It will appear as though your organization is endorsing those that advertise on your website. Nonprofit organizations should not endorse for-profit businesses. Additionally, it would be time-intensive to ensure that every company upholds the mission/ideals of your organization- for example: Sierra Club wouldn’t want to put up X corporation’s ad and then find out they just logged 150 acres for their new company and killed off the local wildlife, it might not look very good to your supporters.

This doesn’t even go into the issue of who would manage the advertising, and the additional time and hassle of worrying about UBIT (unrelated business income tax). Additionally, most (if not 99.9% of) nonprofits do not sell advertising on their website. In fact, after searching and looking at a few hundred sites, I only saw one that did, the AARP, which most people don’t even know is a nonprofit organization.

The same goes for nonprofit blogs, in a short interview in December, Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) said “One thing that I’m pretty sure a nonprofit SHOULDN’T do is run advertising on their blogs. I think blogs are probably more effective to non profits for communicating what they are on about, finding people to support them etc. But if you start selling advertising you distract people from what you’re on about as an organization.”

Now, if you decide to sell it anyway, this post by Social Signal talks you through your options.

I had great difficulty locating nonprofits that sell advertising on their website, so if you know of any that do, please post a link in the comment section.


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