Marketing and fundraising are confronted with obstacles each day that make their job more difficult than it needs to be. Besides the usual frustrations that come with small to medium sized nonprofits such as lack of resources, clarity in planning or other numerous challenges, the main conflicts usually come from an organization focused too much on its programming, rather than making the commitment to raising the support necessary to operate.
In these cases, the fundraiser finds it difficult to function at a high level and needs the support of its BFF in marketing to help focus the orgs resources on storytelling from a combination of both short anecdotes and heartfelt appeals, which enable connections to be made with current and future supporters.
While marketing promotes the larger scope of the organization with an eye towards reaching a diverse set of goals, it is the fundraiser, with laser-like focus who can tell which approaches ultimately will work and which may not. The high-functioning marketing/fundraising relationship is a dance with ideas and possibilities bouncing back and forth in a choreographed tango between brainstorming for the future and examples from the past.
In order to reach their mutual goals, our fundraising and marketing BFF’s are tasked with creating a calendar which incorporates the mandatory must-do’s, while adding new events or appeals that will reach old and new supporters alike. To remain stagnant is not an option to the organization nor to the fundraiser or marketer that is always seeking a way to help broaden the support and expand the reach of the services and programming outlined by senior management and board.
Step one for the fundraiser and marketer is to outline who is responsible for which aspects in the fundraising environment to move the relationship and the org ahead. As with all dance partners, it is important to determine which skills are complimentary and where the two-member team might be lacking. Broad creativity should be balanced with pinpoint attention to detail; external engagement should be tethered to introspective contemplation of strategy and outcomes, all in order to present the most holistic of approaches to telling the story, sharing the mission and gaining the enthusiasm necessary to do great work.
Step two is to work through the different concepts for the main undertakings for the year, quarter or month. Most organizations function on an annual calendar, where the campaigns, appeals and events have become traditionalized, and to not do them would be to risk the financial health of the organization. That’s not to say the different components should not be evaluated each year for the return on investment, both real and inferred. Sometimes old ideas need to be replaced with the new because of advances in the skills of the team, technological innovation or simply because the appeal or event have outlived their usefulness. Honest examination of the plan by marketing and fundraising usually provides for the necessary answers. In many situations even more questions are raised, but do not skip this step, instead you should spend even more time to be sure you make the right decisions.
Once the ‘what’ is determined, it is now time for step three: the creation of the working calendar either in weekly, monthly or quarterly form. The well organized marketing department already has messaging and media crafted well in advance, however if it only exists in the marketing realm, there is a lost opportunity for fundraising to add their experience and ideas to the mix. This is where the true collaborative nature of the relationship comes into play – and when it really pays to be BFF’s.
It takes a high level of unselfishness and awareness of one’s own strengths and weaknesses to lay out ideas, some which are remarkably good and others that are unbelievably bad at times, in order for there to be the accomplishments both the fundraiser and the marketer envision as measured by the level of activity, engagement and ultimately support for the cause. When it works, both bodies are working in tandem and the dance appears to be effortless, but just one look into the eyes of either partner can show you the level of focus and determination it takes to make success happen at a very high level. Now go on out there and hit the dance floor!