4 Steps to Keeping the Love Alive
As a fundraiser, you've worked long and hard to cultivate a strong relationship with marketing and communications colleagues within your organization, because you know that's the only way to unleash your nonprofit's full relationship- building mojo with prospects and supporters.
This active collaboration on knowing your supporters is the key to strong and lasting relationships that generate increased giving and engagement on other fronts. (And if you haven't started partnering yet, right now is the time to do just that.)
Together with your marcom colleagues, you've put in the time and effort to build this vital partnership, and you've probably seen some payoff. But all too often, in this partnership as in love, the partners can begin to take each other for granted.
Here are four ways to keep your partnership with your marcom colleagues positive, fun and highly productive.
Understand the other partner's point of view
The single easiest way to spoil your relationship is to be argumentative because you need to be right. It's deadly. Argumentative people argue to the nth degree until they "win" about everything and anything. They don't consider their partners' viewpoints and rarely, if ever, compromise. Any criticism, even if justified, is met with defensive and sometimes angry responses as the need to be right overrides the need to compromise and improve the relationship.
Effective relationship building stems from understanding the other person's point of view. Put the same effort into doing so with your marcom colleagues as you do with your prospects. Avoid futile arguments, and remember that the objective is not winning but what's best for your partnership (and your revenue).
Be prepared to work hard
John Lennon told us, "all you need is love," and while it's a memorable song, it just isn't true. Successful relationships require hard work. Just look at what happened to famous lovers throughout time — Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler from "Gone With the Wind," for example.
The famous duo is never quite in sync. The lovers experience passion (but not permanence) throughout their epic love affair, and their stormy marriage reflects the surrounding Civil War battles. The flirtatious Scarlett can't make up her mind among her many suitors, and when she finally decides to focus on Rhett, her fickle nature has driven him away — and, well, he just doesn't give a damn anymore.
We all have quirks and habits that can grate on our colleagues. Fundraising in a climate like this is taxing, and that's the time many relationships flounder. Stay alert to keep your relationship smooth, and jump on the bumps as they surface — because you need more than love.
Encourage each other to grow
Respect for each other is absolutely fundamental. This means appreciating and accepting your marcom colleagues for the wonderful, unique human beings they are. And vice versa. I see so many love relationships in which one partner expects the other to conform in the way he or she deems appropriate. This is more like slavery than love and not conducive to a mutually satisfying, lasting relationship.
Your marcom colleagues might want to grow in ways you don't like or team with you on strategies or experiments you're not comfortable with. But flat-out refusing to consider their ideas stifles them — and the relationship because your colleagues will, in turn, treat you the same way.
Rather than restricting each other's freedoms, it's far better for partners to encourage each other to build on their own skill sets and confidence. That gives each of you the opportunity to grow both on your own and through each other. This is the only way true love — or a good fundraising/marcom partnership — can flourish.
Keep the spark alive
Keeping the spark alive in your partnership with marcom colleagues is vital but often overlooked. Don't let it flicker and die.
I see this pattern all too often: You partner hard with your marcom colleagues to get over past patterns (from back in the days when you were each grounded in your own silo), develop strategies to work together, start to have some fun and watch early successes come in. You feel confident and engaged. Work is more interesting than ever, but then …
Contentment (or perhaps complacency) sets in, you start to take the marcom folks for granted (and vice versa) and, gradually, you fall into your old ways. Your tone changes, you don't reach out as much and most of the collaboration you had gotten into gear slows to a halt.
Keep it alive by making the effort to do new things and enjoy new adventures. Refresh this crucial partnership by taking brainstorming meetings off site for a change (this can make an unbelievable difference); bringing a program colleague into the discussion; or collaborating on a working session where together you build your colleagues' understanding of current and prospective donors, train them in dialoguing to strengthen relationships, and ask them to share the insights they gain.
Follow these four steps for a fundraising/marcom partnership that breaks records in building understanding of your supporters and engaging them for the long run. And one that makes your daily to-do list more interesting than ever. FS