Communications vs. Marketing vs. Development: Where Should Social Media Live in a Nonprofit?
It should be expected, right? The channels that are used to communicate about the brand should be “owned” by the people who own the brand, right? In some organizations, marketing and communications are one department and in others they are separated. Either way, there is a perception that the brand is the primary responsibility of these teams, and therefore any communication channel is closely managed and monitored for that reason. Now enter the “but, wait” arguments:
- But what if the channel is highly tailored for fundraising? Doesn’t the development staff know fundraising the best?
- But what if the channel communicates primarily with donors? Aren’t these communications a part of an overall communication plan to raise money from these valuable constituents?
- But what if the top digital experts actually reside in the development team?
- But what if the way you “communicate” fundraising messages is different than the way you “communicate” branding messages?
See–just like the Thanksgiving table, right?
What’s interesting is that a study just was released as a follow-up to the same study in 2013 that asked advertising and marketing executives where social media should be managed in companies. While I realize this might appear to “stack the deck,” just remember that in the commercial world, “marketing” is sometimes very closely aligned with—or the same as—“sales and marketing,” which is a lot like fundraising.
Now, the results do represent a change from 2013 to 2015. In 2013, it was almost a dead heat between executives thinking marketing should manage social media versus public relations/communications having the control. In 2015 that has shifted. Now 51 percent of executives think public relations/communications should manage social media, while only 28 percent believe it should be marketing. To round it out, 9 percent believe it should be managed by customer service and 5 percent (bless their hearts) believe it should be the CEO.
OK, so the argument clearly continues.
But, wait–we all know I hate the word “own.” No one really should “own” something–and that goes for any of you direct-mail people who say you “own” your direct-mail donors or any of you special-event fundraisers who say you “own” your special-event participants and donors. You might be the primary steward of those relationships, but it really should be about collaboration with the departments across the organization that need to share messages with those donors and more.
I feel the same way about the “management” of social media. Here are some tips for development team members if you find yourself in a constant battle around social media marketing.
- Work with the marketing/communications team to help them understand your donors. Don’t take this as a generic action. Help them understand the profile of your donors—What are the demographics?—because it certainly is not all “little old ladies” anymore. Have your agency (or find one that can) provide some insight as to the digital activity of your donors from an external perspective (internet usage, purchasing online, etc.). Do some analysis of your donors and determine how many of them are crossing over into the organization’s own digital channels with engagement (event fundraising, email donations, social media “likes,” e-newsletter signups, etc.). The goal: Make sure the marketing/communications team understands that this audience is digital-friendly and active.
- Use the matching services available through Facebook and have your marketing/communications team create a custom list to determine how many of your donors are on your Facebook page already. The goal: Show the marketing/communications team that the audience they are communicating with is inclusive of the individuals who are making donations to the organization already. This should drive a shared perspective on cultivating these people. With that said, if you find very few of your donors on your Facebook page, this should be a red flag that there is not enough integration between your primary-donor communication strategies and your Facebook strategy. This should create some “shared concern” to put together a plan to change this.
- Explain to the marketing/communications team what the rest of the industry is showing relative to the power of social media in the fundraising ‘formula.’ Call up your colleagues in like-organizations and talk to them about their numbers.
- Sit down and talk through the differences between call-to-action messaging (specifically around fundraising), story-telling for fundraising and what is on your social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.). The goal: It is not to change how they message–it is to create a shared marketing plan where they actually can focus key posts on things that will help drive action in the fundraising arena. There is a lot that must be done by marketing/communications teams to focus on brands, so it is not appropriate for the channels to only be fundraising. But, to create a shared plan to meet multiple objectives is a great outcome.
- Lastly, how about creating some shared goals? In other words, marketing/communications teams often measure the strength of brands on an annual basis. Many development teams measure the strength of donor relationships on a regular basis. Why not see how each team can come together and influence both of these areas across the multiple channels available? Then you can start to cross your research to gain insight about each area in the various levels of constituent input.
Now I wouldn’t suggest trying to strike up these conversations in the days before Thanksgiving this week–but put it on your list for December so 2016 starts off in a more collaborative way around these important communication channels.
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.