Alert! Nonprofit Communications and Fundraising Staffs Aren’t Talking — Report from Direct Marketing Association (DMA) 2006 NY Nonprofit Conference

Here’s the most striking observation from last week’s DMA Nonprofit Conference in New York: There were only 4 other marketing/communications folks, plus me, among the 450 conference participants. That means only 1% of attendees were marketers/communicators.

So where was that crucial conversation and alignment? Lots of discussion about the musts of integrating online and print fundraising communications, but next to none on organization-wide integration of effort and brand.

I was astonished. Donors are volunteers are spokepeople are prospective board members, etc. Prospective funders and donors are news readers are parents of volunteers and program participants. Volunteers are prospective donors are referrers are spokespeople are board members. Program participants are prospective donors are news readers. You get the idea.

This gap amazed me. Gotta say — I always guide my clients to ensure marketing/communications and fundraising teams work together, and know what the other is doing.

The marketing/commmunications and fundraising partnership is equivalent to the marriage of sales and marketing folks in the corporate world. The researchers behind Sales & Marketing Alignment, a new report on this vital relationship just released by MarketingProfs, tell us that companies in which the sales and marketing teams are closely aligned grow more quickly, close more proposals (a.k.a. gifts) and lose many fewer customers (donors, in your case). You can certainly extrapolate these advantages to the value dervied from close alignment of your nonprofit’s communications and fundraising teams.

So why aren’t nonprofit fundraising and communications folks working closely together? What’s to lose? There’s everything to gain.

Any ideas? We’ve got to solve this problem, asap.

Nancy Schwartz on August 15, 2006 in Leadership, New Challenges, Nonprofit Communications, People | 4 comments
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  • Megan

    Nancy- great post. When I joined my current non-profit organization, and suggested weekly meetings between the communications and development staff, people looked at me like i was crazy! “What does grant writing and corporate sponsorships have to do with PR & marketing?,” they asked. As Director of Communications I thought it was vital to make sure our message, no matter what audience (foundations, corporations, press, donors) was consistent. In addition, often the proposals to potential donors include a communications outcome. Funders often want to know, at the beginning, how the proposed project will the publicized, where the report will the distributed etc. My organization now works collaboratively, on all phases of development and communication. I encourage every non-profit communicator to do the same. The results are worth it.

  • Jeff Brooks

    In my experience: Most folks in marketing/communications don’t see their jobs as having anything to do with fundraising, and they disdain the practices and disciplines of direct-response fundraising (it’s just not cool enough). This, of course, is incredibly destructive. Having these two groups out of alignment with each other is probably the biggest problem in most medium and large nonprofits today. What I would do: put M/C UNDER fundraising, not above or on par. That would solve the problem.

  • Nancy E. Schwartz

    Jeff, I agree with your analysis (although as an m/c person, none of my clients disdain development work, but many aren’t in sync with it). From my perspective, M/c is definitely not part of fundraising, but a parallel function, and strategy.
    How about a bi-fold department, co-directed by one fundraising and one marketing/communications director? Otherwise, the m/c orientation is lost. Have seen that much too often when it’s under the fundraising fold.

  • Nancy,
    I have seen this all to often and find that it is usually a problem that starts at the top. When non-profit staff realize that they all impact the message of the organization in some way, then everything starts to become donor-centric. Without the donors who understand your mission, you don’t exist. The CEO must understand that the message that he/she puts forth must focus the organization.

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