4 Steps to Moving Your Marketing and Fundraising Teams to a Productive Partnership
Marketing and fundraising are two halves of a whole. But when they don’t operate that way, the outcome of each team’s efforts is far less than it could be, undermining an organization’s ability to engage its base.
Unfortunately, that’s the situation in most nonprofits where a single person doesn’t wear both hats. As fundraising expert Mal Warwick told me recently, when marketing and fundraising teams stand firm in their respective corners, the disconnect becomes a huge obstacle to raising money, particularly in today’s challenging fundraising environment.
But there are ways to surmount this obstacle. Fairleigh-Dickinson University (FDU) succeeded in doing so via a deliberate, well-articulated restructuring. Read on to learn more about FDU's strategy and the results, and my recommendation of a four-step process to bring marketing and fundraising into a productive partnership, supplemented by insights from some of the best fundraisers and nonprofit marketers I know.
1. Start at the top — it’s the only hope for a strong marketing-fundraising partnership
If bridging the marketing-fundraising gap is the goal, the pathway to getting there has to be spearheaded by your leadership. Your organization’s executive director, supported by the board, must be the one to guide the two teams into active collaboration and ensure they stay there.
Put more bluntly, “the heads of development and marketing have to accept that they are oxen pulling the same wagon, a wagon labeled ‘increasing community support,'” advises Tom Ahern, a leading authority on donor communications.
If your executive director isn’t focused on bridging this destructive gap, here’s a way to move her along that path, from Kivi Leroux Miller of NonprofitMarketingGuide.com:
- Ask the leaders of your organization to outline the top three actions an ardent fan of your cause would take in order to support you in a given month. Odds are that at least one of those steps, but not all three, will be related to fundraising.
- Discuss how your marketing and fundraising staff can work together to encourage that big fan to follow through on those three actions. This moves the conversation away from traditional to-do lists and toward a more holistic view of how you are relating to your supporters and encouraging them to be a part of your organization’s community.
2. Articulate shared priorities to serve as the core of a common agenda
As long as your marketing and fundraising teams have distinct goals, they won’t be effective partners. How could they be, each pointed in its own direction? But if tasked with a common agenda, the landscape changes. A marketing-fundraising partnership is the only way to get there.