Helping the bottom line of non-profits with digital signage

Non-profit groups are implementing digital signage, creating electronic bulletin or message boards, to better communicate to their staff, volunteers and community. Though these electronic bulletin boards reduce the cost and improve the performance of their communication efforts, they may be able to help even more. Because of its easy to update, dynamic nature, digital signage has been a formidable tool in promoting products and services for years. With documented increases in sales of and product recognition it has become the norm in traditional marketing circles. Non-profits may be able to generate additional revenue with these digital message boards. Though traditional marketing efforts for digital signage may not fit the capabilities of non-profits, who have limited resources to promote the effort, several tactics can be applied that just may fit.

First let’s take a look at how you might determine if your electronic message boards might implement ways to help with revenue generation as well as improve communication. There appears to be three main reasons someone would want to pay to be shown on a digital sign at a non-profit organization.

  • Recognition – Though we all have at times provided for others with no expectation of recognition, recognition still feels good. It helps us feel part of something larger than ourselves and is often one of the strongest ways for non-profits to build and grow a volunteer and fund-raising base.
  • Association – Though similar to recognition, association is more about being perceived by yourself or others to have similar qualities of the associated partner. Many companies will associate themselves with non-profits, not only to help the community but to demonstrate their beliefs to their employees and the community. Sometimes this is very hard to do without this association for businesses, depending on the type of business they perform.
  • Revenue – If you have a substantial staff, volunteer or community base and that base consumes services or products, you may be able to increase the revenue through potential advertisers. This would require reserving some of the space on your digital bulletin or message board to showing information other than your own.



When discussing how to best move forward in developing a revenue stream for a non-profit, we will look at two basic approaches. The first is designed to address the individuals and companies looking for recognition and association and the second will concentrate on reaching those businesses that want to increase revenue. Of course, the advantage to approaching a business with either approach it that association and revenue is intrinsically tied to together to some extent, so introducing a bit of both approaches will often lead to greater success.


Using your digital message board to recognize people and companies can be both a great way to energize your volunteer and donor base and increase revenue. Simply posting recognitions for great efforts will help energize volunteers and often recognizing individuals for donations help solidify the likelihood the will donate again and possibly donate at a higher level. Building acknowledgement into funding levels allow you to offer more value for increased donation levels. Let’s look at some ways to use digital bulletin boards to maximize donations.

  • Include mentions on the digital message board as part of what you get with larger donation levels. You can use the impression numbers below to create tremendous value and limit to a set number of participants to increase exclusivity.
  • Have different areas on the digital message board displaying different sized acknowledgements or offer scrolling text, or full screen pop-in acknowledgements to help create the different funding levels.
  • You might have event sponsors have their information displaying on the electronic bulletin board during events for maximum exposure.



Whatever your approach, building your digital sign into your recognition and funding programs can help improve your bottom line. If you want to work to get more revenue generation you may decide selling advertising to outside companies may be the way you want to go.


Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of advertising for revenue generation. Selling advertising can be hard and time consuming. With that in mind, often the best approach for non-profits is to make it easy. You may leave some money on the table to speak, as compared to advertising venues, but it will better fit your capabilities and still bring in more revenue. Most companies that sell advertising will present their pricing in CPM or cost per thousand views. Additionally, they will work to demonstrate how their demographic best fit the advertiser’s customers. Often, they sell advertising in smaller time lots to keep the initial cost down for the advertiser while increasing their profit. For non-profits, the volume may not approach the volume capable of newspapers, television, websites or mailings, so association and lower cost is normally the best approach. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your homework before setting out to sell.

  • Make a list of area broadcast media and newspapers. Contact them about advertising with them and get their advertising rates, demographics and CPM. This is probably what your potential advertiser is looking at as well.
  • Outline the demographic of your viewers. How many people will potentially see the digital bulletin board? What are their ages, genders, economic and anything else that you feel may be of importance to your potential advertiser? This is typically presented in percentages (48% male, 52% female and 12% between the ages of 45 to 60).
  • Develop as best you can an aggressive CPM and rate. As mentioned before CPM stands for cost for one thousand views (or impressions). So, first understand views or impressions. This is the number of times it is potentially viewed. If you display an advertisement for 30 seconds every 15 minutes for 30 days in a community of 200 people, that would be 576,000 views or impressions (96 times displayed a day, calculated at 24 hours viewing time, times 30 days times 200 people). By having an advertisement show on the electronic bulletin board multiple times a day your impressions increase dramatically. If you charge $100 per month rate with 576,000 views you have a CPM of less than 18 cents. That will probably be a very, very competitive CPM. Still you have to look at the cost from the advertiser’s point of view and take in to consideration how it might really affect their revenue to get to the right price.



With the aforementioned rate and each advertisement running 30 seconds every 15 minutes you can display 30 advertisements a month on your digital message board for a total of $3000 per month. Now of course this is only an example you may charge far less or maybe more that is why you do your research. The important thing is to not make it too difficult. Offer low pricing, long-term advertising (3, 6 or 12-month agreements) and speak to the benefits of association and helping a community non-profit. Think of the types of companies that would benefit by advertising services, lunch specials, transportation and products. Do a quick web search for a basic advertising agreement or have your legal team draft one up for you, design a demographic sheet and list out the CPM and rates on a rate card and hit the bricks. Whatever your approach, using your electronic bulletin or message board to help generate more revenue just may be a big help to many community non-profits.