Nonprofit Marketers: Do You Bring Full Value to the Table?
Recently, I was reading an article by Forbes Insights, and within the article about customer satisfaction there was an interesting callout about the unique role of marketing. While I agree 100 percent with the information below, I tried to apply this to what I see in nonprofit direct marketers. For some reason, I feel like the direct marketing teams within our charities don't always think of themselves as "marketing" yet they are often building relationships with the largest group of constituents/customers the brand has.
Here's the callout I'm referencing about the role of marketing:
- Marketing brings an outside point of view.
- Marketing can articulate the unique truth of the company and what differentiates it within the marketplace.
- Marketing can communicate the product and value — why products are relevant to customers in different ways, identifying segmentation in the market.
- Marketing creates compelling stories for rallying employees and making an emotional connection with customers.
- Marketing is a strategic seat at the table; there is no other department that can see such a company panorama and bring those perspectives together.
What I really want to know is if nonprofit fundraisers who run large direct marketing programs feel they are filling these shoes? Here's my take on the question.
- Outside point of view: This feels like a "toss-up" to me. Why? Because I think our industry has prioritized sharing of information, best practices and even challenges being faced, and because of this I absolutely believe the "outside perspective" is always being brought to the table. However, I don't believe we leverage the commercial "outside point of view" as readily. I wonder if this is because there is not comfort with the translation of what commercial direct marketing (and general marketing) can tell us or the impression that there is no translation. Either way, I believe this is a critical area for attention. I would argue that our conferences should start to include some element from the "commercial outside."
- Unique truth and differentiation: This I believe is right on the mark. However, I do believe the unique segments of constituents (even with their critical mass) are often considered different than the rest of the organization's constituents. How many times have we heard "the direct mail donors" or "direct marketing donors" as if they are a different part of the organization? So, the ability to craft messaging that works to explain the organization and why this particular mission is more deserving is extremely valuable but often not viewed as brand messaging by leadership and other executives. This is a gap that must be bridged. As I've said previously, direct marketers within an organization are often managing the largest group of constituents in the organization — so the connection between their messaging and other messaging about the brand cannot be broken.
- Products, value and segmentation: Simply put, I think direct marketing fundraisers are typically the best marketers in the organization to message about the "benefits" of the "product" (donations) and the best when it comes to segmentation. Why? Because if they don't do it right, people don't buy what they are selling, which is the ability to make a better world by donating.
- Creating emotional connections: Surprisingly, I think we sometimes get lost here. I've written articles before about the difference between facts/progress statements and emotional stories. For years and years many of us have heard this from our donors: "I don't know what you are doing with my money." So, naturally, in an effort to answer some of those questions we bring out the big guns — pie charts, progress statements with dollars and impact numbers related to the mission. We walk a fine line between leading with facts and creating emotional connections through the written or spoken (telemarketing) words. This is an area where the brand folks in the organization may do a better job. I'll probably get hate mail for this next statement, but sometimes I feel like the brand folks have a bit more wiggle room because they don't have these huge revenue line items attached to their "words." And, while we all know you can't often take a branding piece (no matter how good it is) and directly translate it into a fundraising piece, there are great lessons to be learned about the ability to drive the emotional connection that can be seen in some of the print ads, television, etc.
- A strategic seat: Honestly, if the direct marketers do have a seat, I think it might be missing a few inches on the legs of the chair. In many cases, direct marketing is actually a part of the fundraising team and not what some call the "big M marketing team." This is a huge mistake in my eyes. Again, I go back to the fact that most direct marketing teams are dealing with the largest constituency the organization has and therefore should have a vocal seat at the table when discussing organizational strategy. In fact, I would argue that in some instances direct marketing feedback should be gained before other campaigns are rolled out since they are the closest to knowing a very unique and large audience that votes with its money.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.