4 Steps to Moving Your Marketing and Fundraising Teams to a Productive Partnership (Case Study)

Dear Nancy,

Our organization is preparing for a new structure in which it’s likely that Communications and Resource Generation (Fundraising) will become one department.

Do you have any advice as to implementing change from separate departments into one that lead to staff buy in as well as growing cooperation? Have you experienced any of these mergers where the department heads became Co-Directors? Some of the staff are very concerned about someone from RG leading the department. They feel it will lead to RG issues trumping the “prophetic voice” role of communications. Or that only stories favoring fund-raising efforts will get attention.

All the best,
Larry Guengerich, Communications Coordinator
Mennonite Central Committee East Coast

Dear Larry,

Your concern is a common one. In fact, the marketing-fundraising divide — whether these teams are joined in a single department or not — is one of the most common challenges nonprofits must tackle.

The real issue that the Committee is facing, no matter which team leader heads the new department, is that your marketing and fundraising teams are not productive partners.

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 building strong relationships with your organization’s community and raising money.

But there are ways to surmount this obstacle. Fairleigh-Dickinson University (FDU) succeeded in doing so via a deliberate, well-articulated re-structuring. I’ll tell you more about its approach in a moment. But first, here is my recommendation for 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.
  2. Articulate shared priorities to serve as the core of a common agenda.
  3. Identify what’s working—from each “side”—and do more of it.
  4. Build on real, compelling success stories, well-honed and widely shared and discussed as the glue of your fundraising and marketing conversations.

Larry, breaking down the wall between marketing and fundraising is the only path to success on both fronts. I urge you to start today.

As a first step, I suggest you and your colleagues read this guide to a productive marketing-fundraising partnership, including details on the four steps to success and the Fairleigh-Dickinson case study.

Please report back on the outcome of this shift, Larry. Your experience will pave the way to more productive partnerships. Thank you!

Readers, what are your strategies to strengthen the marketing-fundraising partnership in your organization? Please share them here with the Getting Attention.org community.

P.S. Learn how to strengthen your nonprofit’s messaging with the all-new Nonprofit Tagline Database and 2011 Tagline Report.

Nancy Schwartz on January 19, 2011 in Fundraising: Innovations & Research | 1 comment
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