Fundraising and Marketing/Communications go together like peas and carrots, but the connectivity between these two teams is all too often overlooked – or even avoided, sometimes because of cavernous misunderstandings about audience, message and, let’s face it, territorialism.
We all know that an organization’s success is directly tied to its ability to fundraise, but what we forget is that an organization’s fundraising success is directly tied to its knack for communicating impact through a cohesive brand. Therein lies the beautiful, necessary synergy.
These things go hand in hand. So much so that some organizations have combined their fundraising and communications shops into a lean, mean Community Engagement Team (a.k.a. External Relations, Advancement Services, etc.). Sure, I’m the first to admit that this model only makes sense in very specific cases, but strategic collaboration between the two teams is a must in every organization – and doable.
3 Tips for Fundraising–Communications Collaboration
1. Plan collaboratively
When drafting a fundraising plan for the year, pull the communications team into the loop so that they can build support into their month-by-month calendar. The teams’ calendars should mirror each other so that eleventh-hour-if-only-we-would-haves don’t crop up throughout the year when the pressure is on to meet fundraising goals. I find that these calendar conversations lead to even better strategy year-to-year!
2. Check in often
Deep dives into fundraising communications strategy shouldn’t feel foreign. It’s part of the nuts-and-bolts of effective nonprofit management. It shouldn’t be a treat or a pill, a marathon meeting or a cornering hallway conversation. Set up frequent one-on-one meetings so that strategy between the two teams becomes routine, second nature. Our Communications Manager and I have found that our twice-monthly powwows provide a chance to get into the nitty-gritty of our collaborative to-dos (working meetings work!), and they often turn into strategic brain storm sessions which help us look ahead and ensure each other’s priorities are clear early on. (And I’ve learned a ton about communications as a result!)
3. Listen to the experts (that’s you!)
Communications for fundraising is a different beast, and in many cases (more often with small organizations), it’s solely the responsibility of the fundraisers because communications teams are focused on one audience – clients. (For good reason since they’re the reason we’re here, after all.) But organizations that work under this model are missing out big time. When fundraising and communications teams work together, expertise from both teams leads to better understanding of and more effective messaging for donor audiences.
As Nancy Schwartz says, “When the same strong stories are used by both marketing and fundraising teams, your organization wins via increased awareness, building engagement and boosting positive responses and actions (e.g. we want to be a part of a winning organization.)” A communications team needs to have a pulse on messaging and branding strategy for engaging donors so that the organization is represented consistently across audiences (albeit through different lenses). And fundraisers need the support of great storytelling, easily maneuvered online experiences and branded materials. We’re better together!