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5 Actionable Steps for Nonprofit Leaders to Inspire Strategic Alignment

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” — Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou may not have been referring specifically to non-profit marketing and development teams but her words hold true nonetheless — the two functions are far more alike than different, especially now that each function engages the same audience through digital and social channels.

Development is a distinct function from marketing in many nonprofits, similar to how sales and marketing teams used to be in the corporate world. Just as digital disruption inspired the alignment of sales and marketing in for-profits, nonprofit marketing and development teams must follow suit. 

The alignment of marketing and development operations is a big opportunity to provide higher returns, more value to participants and supporters, and a stronger position in the marketplace. To get started, we have identified 5 actionable steps that can make a big impact on your alignment efforts.

Here are 5 ways to inspire an environment of collaboration and innovation in your nonprofit organization.

1. Suggest identifying areas of collaboration in the next staff meeting

Regardless of your title, department, or longevity in the organization, you can get this conversation started. Best case is that legacy distrust or long-held hesitations are brought forward and discussed. The worst-case scenario is that the idea gets shot down unilaterally, and you learn something about your organization.

2. Understand the goals and objectives of both marketing and development teams

Current overlap and shared purpose is a great place to start to formalize new levels of collaboration. By aligning your organizational goals and insights across your marketing and development teams you can craft a simple and clear brand story that will connect consistently and authentically with your target audience.


3. Start exchanging key audience survey information across departments

Call on your counterparts in other departments who are also doing surveys of key audiences.  Share insights, align feedback, and determine potential overlap for future efforts.

If marketing serves fundraising activities, then it is also true that the development team must be willing to be served. Collaboration is key – and it starts with recognizing the mutual goals.

4. Identify a collaboration opportunity to prove your point

Start small with a collaborative project to demonstrate the power of shared inputs and talent.  Celebrate small wins as proof of concept for larger projects.

5. Embrace creative tension to drive change

Embrace the opportunity to breakthrough organizational inertia and build an “Audience Insights” function that can become a shared services operation for the entire organization. Generating this kind of creative tension requires clarity about your desired brand destination and full organizational alignment on the “truth about today”.

“The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision”
– Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline

Overcoming the challenges of misalignment between these functions allows you to get the most out of your scarce resources and tell a unified story that gives prospective donors, volunteers and program participants a reason to care, a reason to learn more about your mission and a reason to advocate for your cause.

If you are struggling to balance marketing and development efforts to drive results for your nonprofit, download our latest whitepaper and learn how to make strategic alignment a reality! This guideline provides the 3 step process to align goals and audience insights between marketing and development teams, and to ultimately craft a compelling brand story that is consistent across all departments.

Click here to access Striking the Right Balance Between Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising Teams.


Click Here to Access the Guide for Nonprofit Leaders

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