Breaking Down Organizational Silos to Create an Optimal Omnichannel Experience
Omnichannel fundraising has become a big buzzword among nonprofit marketers and fundraisers, especially for those exploring new ways to reach constituents. It makes sense — today's donors are consumers, too. Commercial brands, such as Amazon and Netflix, have trained consumers to expect seamless experiences tailored for them in every channel.
There's a lot to learn about donor loyalty from these companies. One of my favorite brands that has successfully executed an omnichannel experience for years is Pottery Barn. I was first introduced to the company years ago through its catalogs — beautiful photography capturing home settings no one could resist.
Then a Pottery Barn store opened near my home, and I had the opportunity to walk through the catalog in real life. As my trust and affection for Pottery Barn's brand deepened, I shared my email and cellphone number for additional marketing touches. Their messages keep me updated on design trends, sales opportunities and their social responsibility agenda. I eventually forged a relationship with Rose, one of its designers — firmly cementing me as a loyal customer.
I've moved twice in the past three years, first to downsize and again to take advantage of 2021's wild real estate market. Throughout each move, Pottery Barn was with me to make my new houses feel like home.
Through an omnichannel approach, Pottery Barn has created an iconic brand that customers know, trust and want in their homes.
Creating this seamless customer experience may sound daunting at first. But it’s worth it. A key component to adopting an omnichannel approach for your fundraising and marketing campaigns is to identify and break down the organizational silos standing in your way.
Uncover the Silos Slowing Down Your Team
When it comes to working in silos, the most likely culprits in your organization are fundraising and marketing. These two departments have long operated separately and worked toward different goals. Marketing, for instance, focuses on brand building, awareness and advertising, while fundraising prioritizes building relationships to encourage giving.
By breaking down the barriers preventing collaboration between your marketing and fundraising teams, you can create a unified brand experience for your constituents. Imagine putting the marketing funnel on top of the fundraising pyramid. Marketing’s branding and awareness work should lead prospects directly into the fundraising pipeline so stewardship can begin.
Here are some roadblocks you’ll need to overcome:
Leadership misalignment. Does your organization’s leadership team understand what an omnichannel approach is? Do they understand what it requires from your technology and teams? You must clearly communicate what you’re trying to achieve and the benefits.
Risk aversion. Especially given the economic uncertainty, it can be scary to talk about doing things differently. But, why would you keep doing the same thing if it isn’t working?
Competing priorities. Does your organization operate with a singular goal in mind, or do different departments have different priorities (and budgets)? Dust off your mission and vision statements — how can each team contribute?
Resistance to change. Marketers and fundraisers speak two different languages and trying something new can be intimidating. Start with the commonalities and build from there.
Create Organizational Efficiencies That Encourage Integration
Consider how constituents connect with your organization. The entry points to your organization vary widely and depend on several factors — not least of which is how someone was introduced to your brand and cause. These many entry points add a layer of complexity to the work you do every day.
The initial, top-of-funnel experience someone has with your organization combined with the strength of your brand determines your ability for future fundraising success. Your marketing and fundraising teams are more dependent on each other than ever before. Bridge the two teams by creating efficiencies in some key areas. For example:
Technology. Good customer relationship management (CRM) software and tools that can automate and support messaging are essential. Create a system where the two teams collaborate on campaigns — they both have great knowledge to share.
Attribution Reporting. Make sure your fundraising and marketing teams can see the same data points and key performance indicators (KPIs) so they’re working toward the same goal.
Investment Resources. Communicate the return on investment (ROI) on this new approach to get the support you need. Look at existing skills among both departments collectively and fill in gaps as needed.
It might take a few structural reorganizations before you hit on an approach that works well, but any pain along the way will be worth it in the long run. Bottom line: marketing needs fundraising, and vice versa, so do everything in your power to get these two departments collaborating.
Develop a Donor-Centric Communications Strategy
Your constituents use a multitude of digital channels every day. Think about how they move through their day — this is the foundation of an omnichannel communications approach with donors at the center. Here are four tips to keep in mind.
- Understand your audience. Get to know your constituents by defining your target audience through segmentation studies and donor profiles. Pull data on awareness, issue resonance, retention, frequency and more, then look for trends. Monitor campaign performance and conduct ad hoc research.
- Assess your tech stack. Reviewing your tech capabilities should be a continuous part of your process. Tech platforms, like CRMs, are the backbone to managing data and creating donor experiences, so be patient and nimble.
- Connect the funnel and prioritize. With the first two steps in place, you should be ready to connect the marketing funnel with the fundraising pyramid and set your priorities. Determine what combination of channels can best help you meet your goals and prepare your messaging.
- Measure results. Keep an eye on performance and be ready to shift direction as needed. Don’t pull the plug too fast on a poor performer, though. Give your campaigns enough time to generate data that shows trends — three months is the recommended duration.
Relationship-building is at the core of omnichannel marketing, both internally with your departments and externally with your constituents. Break down the silos that are slowing down your team for a more unified brand experience. Lean into technology to increase the bandwidth of your team and to identify trends and opportunities to give constituents a personalized experience with your organization.
With organizational efficiencies in place, you can launch omnichannel engagement built around donor preferences and behaviors. This will increase loyalty and inspire greater generosity to your cause.
So, look to the brands you love for inspiration, and use those examples to unite your entire team behind advancing your mission. When constituents see your communications moving in lockstep toward a common goal, they won’t be able to resist following with their support.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Jennifer Bielat serves as executive vice president of client strategy at Pursuant. With more than two decades of experience in the nonprofit sector, Jennifer brings intimate knowledge and understanding of nonprofit management. In her role, she develops strategic solutions to help organizations navigate the opportunities and challenges facing today’s nonprofit organizations. Jennifer’s expertise lies in integrated marketing and communications strategy, comprehensive direct response strategy and execution, digital marketing and fundraising, and nonprofit leadership.
Before joining Pursuant, Jennifer was senior vice president of integrated marketing for Easterseals, where she led the organization in a brand renaissance with the goal of bringing greater clarity and relevance to the nearly 100-year-old brand. Under her leadership, the direct response channels — digital and mail — raised more than $32 million annually for the organization and served as a critical pipeline for other development areas, including planned giving and major gift development.