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Striking the Right Balance Between Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Teams – Part 1

Most nonprofit organizations (NPOs) – regardless of size – have separate and distinct marketing and development (fundraising) functions.  This recognizes the importance of donors as an audience, their specific messaging needs and the unique types of outreach and experience required in development teams.  However, the marketing and development functions are more alike than different, especially now that each function engages the same people through digital and social channels.

The Challenge: Alignment

Marketing and development functions communicate the same benefits of the organization, but they rarely act together. This can be a costly situation. Not only is overlap of functional expertise expensive, but also the lack of shared insight and feedback can be disastrous to organizations of any size. Development is a distinct function from marketing, similar to sales and marketing in the for-profit, corporate world, but sales and marketing have become more aligned due to the rise of digital in order to shape and improve the customer experience. Similarly, alignment between marketing and development in an NPO will provide higher return, value to participants and supporters, and a stronger market position.

In this three-part series, I’ll share with you the three steps to aligning development and marketing in NPO’s. First up, alignment of goals.

Alignment of Goals

Goals and objectives need to be clearly established, stated, fully aligned, and adopted by both teams to actively work toward a mutual set of objectives. Luckily, there is a lot of common ground on which to build.  Consider these five areas where marketing and fundraising share the same goals and functional efforts:

  1. An external focus:  Both non-profit marketing and development strategies share the ultimate goal of reaching and engaging external audiences. Both need to motivate those audiences to specific actions, be it volunteer, participate, evangelize, contribute or serve. Often, these audiences overlap, and may be receiving messages from both departments.
  2. Consistency:  Every outbound message must be consistent with the core organizational values and value proposition.  Inconsistency in message, voice, look or feel runs the risk of confusing target audiences and therefore hampers goal achievement in all areas. 
  3. Audience Segmentation:  Non-profits, as do many organizations, necessarily target and are responsive to many varied audiences and therefore are best served by rigorous and strategic audience segmentation.  One might think it intuitive that within the organization, marketing and development teams share audience segmentation strategies, resources, and information, but, unfortunately, often that’s not the case. There are many economies to be gained by taking advantage of the similarities in audience segmentation practices.
  4. Participant Advocacy: As people on the front-lines of the cause – talking with key audiences and influencers – both marketing and development teams share the important role of representing participant interests to internal teams.  These insights are critical to ensuring that the organization stays connected to key supporters and participants. Making sure that both sets of insights are shared in a collaborative fashion will complete the circle of knowledge for the entire organization.
  5. Share of Mind:  Both marketing and fundraising operations desire to own a share of mind for key audiences. In nonprofit development, for example, it is a very common practice to determine, usually by asking the donor directly, where the organization falls in the donor’s philanthropic priorities.  A top-three position is generally considered a solid indication that the donor is a good candidate for cultivation toward a significant gift.  Similarly, marketers looking to fill programs, recruit volunteers or engage partners are looking to increase the share of mind the organization owns.   

While the specific messages will be modified and tailored for each audience, the similarities of the need to engage external groups are extensive.  Both teams must adopt a collaborative attitude and approach in order to reap the benefits of these shared objectives.  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.

Next week, I’ll discuss the second step, “Alignment of Insights” where we’ll explore the opportunity to expand and better stratify knowledge about key audiences, particularly those with influence to important circles. 

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Photo Credit: oenvoyage

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