Breaking Down the Silos: Organize Around Audiences, Not Departments
[Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from "The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising," the 131-page report from DirectMarketingIQ. It includes nine chapters, from leading fundraisers, on channel selection, messaging, direct mail, e-mail, mobile, social media, multichannel renewal, multichannel testing and more. It also features eight multichannel case studies on successful campaigns.]
In some cases, the nonprofit sector is as siloed as any other industry. And it’s natural! If you hire a direct-response or media- and corporate-relations expert, by default that’s what she does. It takes a special charity, leader or advocate within the marketing teams to fight to connect the dots. But when you have a few successes under your belt, it can be magic.
Every group is/can be organized differently, but consider the below if you’re building or have the opportunity to influence the structure of your outbound communication/fundraising teams:
Organize around audiences — not departments
It’s easy to get lost in data. Step away from the spreadsheet (for now) and allow yourself to think big. In looking at the organization chart, you can give yourself the freedom in general terms to talk about your audience as member (development), mass (corporate partners/creative services) and media (PR and public affairs).
If each business unit head comes in feeling it’s his/her responsibility to drive donations in his/her own medium, you’ve won half the battle.
Obviously, development will always drive the most income, but what if you found that a partnership with the media team leads to 15,000 e-mail captures and those 15,000 converted at two or three times the rate of purchased or appended e-mail addresses? All of a sudden that partnership becomes a very important one to the success of development.
Plot your audiences in the same broad swaths early on. Let’s make up a charity for the purposes of this exercise. Let’s say your charity is supporting the rights of aliens who have landed on our planet from a galaxy far, far away and existed in peace with earthlings for 50 years. Now we need to fight discrimination and help give them basic rights.
So … the development team would target people who were either acquired from other charities, i.e., traditional direct response, people who actively find the charity because of a similar belief, and then folding in all the contacts that the media and mass marketing efforts catch. The media team may have the objective of finding opportunities to gain placement in every story done about aliens’ rights and successful pitches of its own.
Gone are the days of “ad equivalency and impressions.” Those will be included as factors in the measure of success, but if built and measured right, a media effort can and should be tied to more. If the media director sits with the development director and they plot a series of capture moments like landing pages, text opportunities and dedicated toll-free numbers, then the media department can spend and invest to that measure of success. It becomes part of the Web that helps to raise funds and identify names.
The increased awareness and buzz in the marketplace will naturally happen because of a self-reinforcing loop: The more supporters and names you generate, the more people will talk! Then add corporate partners and/or licensing, and it’s just another level of targeting.
In the case of our aliens, we may focus on common package goods items shared by both; pursue a partnership with Kodak or Toyota or some other product that has equal purchaser distribution between human and alien kind. If your negotiations allow for utilization of outbound e-mail to corporate partners’ purchasers (and it should!) or mention on their websites then you are poised for another conversation with the development person to ask, “How do we catch these new people?”
Then it becomes incumbent on the development team to take the mass and media leads and turn them into long-term and active donors.
Start your measurement assumptions in much the same way. Think big. If your teams agree every department is accountable for driving qualified leads or donors, you can talk about your campaign terms in phases — cultivate, educate and motivate people.
If I am the mass marketing team, the focus is primarily education about the badly treated aliens and how our partnerships with corporate America will help change that. The media team may dive in with petitions and protests on state or national capital steps with the clear goal to motivate people to do something because they presumably come armed with education about the issue prior to taking action.
The member team will probably always be a blend of all three: constantly cultivate current and potential donors; keep them educated on changes, accomplishments and needs; and motivate them to give and give in order to fund your program.
Certainly people need to take this 30,000 foot view and translate it to conversion rates, actions taken, donations made and all the things we’re used to doing every day in our jobs, but step back to see the possibility of making a series of actions more impactful and having partnerships work even harder for your charity.
I promise you, there is no better feeling than a cause marketing director being able to say the campaign yielded $200,000 up front, and that membership has determined that 22,000 e-mail addresses will create an additional $150,000 in income within 12 months. Those are the kinds of stories the smartest charities are telling, and those charities will continue to pave the way in an ever-crowded, ever-changing marketplace.
When organizations begin to think in those terms, the medium becomes less driven by guesswork and more by what works. There is no true right or wrong on spending advertising dollars on billboard ads or print or bus shelters. The question becomes a moot point if you have the right infrastructure. But it quickly becomes wrong if you don’t have the correct infrastructure in place to measure success.
So, I'm a fundraiser having a mid-life crisis. And that's perfectly fine with me.
I am taking time to look around, lift my head and find REAL people who really want to change the world. And people smart enough to do it. Join me in this fun journey. I have no idea where we will end up - and that is the beauty of it. I'm nonprofit passionate, a hopeful world changer, and always ready to share what I know, learn what I don't, admit when I can't, and ask the hard questions.
While you're looking around for other areas of inspiration, check out The Moth Project at themoth.org (the podcasts are AMAZING), TED talks (doesn't matter which ones - find topics that interest you) and Volunteer Voices (again - love the podcast) written by volunteers from the Peace Corps. Don't see the immediate connection to being a better fundraiser? Just listen, you'll hear the message ...