Articles | Fundraising | 4 Ways to Keep the Marketing-Fundraising Love Alive

4 Ways to Keep the Marketing-Fundraising Love Alive

R-E-S-P-E-C-T! You’ve worked long and hard to cultivate a strong relationship with your fundraising and/or marketing colleagues (this guidance works both ways), as that’s the only way to unleash your full relationship-building mojo with prospects and supporters. This active collaboration on knowing your supporters is the key to strong and lasting relationships that generate increased giving and engagement on other fronts. And if you haven’t started partnering yet, today’s the day.

Together with your colleagues, you’ve put in the time and effort to build this vital partnership, and you’ve probably seen some pay off. But all too often, in this partnership as in love, this is where partners begin to take each other for granted.

Here are four ways to keep your partnership with your marketing or fundraising colleagues positive, fun and highly productive:

1. Understand the other person’s point of view.

The single worst way to spoil your relationship is to be argumentative because you need to be right. It’s DEADLY.

Argumentative people will argue to the nth degree until they “win” about everything and anything. They won’t consider their partner’s viewpoints and rarely, if ever, compromise. Any criticism, even if justified, is met with a defensive and sometimes angry response as the need to be right overrides the need to compromise and improve the relationship.

Effective relationship building stems from understanding the other person’s point of view. Put the same effort into doing so with your fundraising or marketing partners as you do with your prospects. Avoid futile arguments and remember that the objective is not winning but what’s best for your partnership (and your revenue).

2. Be prepared to work hard.

John Lennon told us “all you need is love” and while it’s a memorable song, it just isn’t true. Look what happened to famous lovers throughout time, from Anthony and Cleopatra to Gone With the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Successful relationships require hard work.

Scarlett and Rhett are never quite in sync. They experience passion (but not permanence) throughout their epic love affair, and their stormy marriage reflects the surrounding Civil War battles. The flirtatious Scarlett can’t make up her mind among her many suitors and when she finally decides to focus on Rhett, her fickle nature has driven him away.

We all have quirks and habits that can grate on our colleagues. Fundraising in a climate like this one is taxing, and that’s the time many relationships flounder. Stay alert to keep your relationship smooth and jump on the bumps as they surface, because you need more than love.

3. Encourage each other to grow.

Respect for each other is absolutely fundamental. This means appreciating and accepting your fundraising or marketing partners for the wonderful, unique human beings they are. And vice versa.

I see so many love relationships in which one partner expects the other to conform in the way they deem appropriate. This is more like slavery than love, and not conducive to a mutually-satisfying, lasting relationship.

Your fundraising or marketing partners may want to grow in ways you may not like, or team up with you on strategies or experiments you’re not comfortable with. But preventing their growth will stifle them and you—because your partner will treat you in the same way.

Rather than restricting each other’s freedoms, it’s far better to encourage your fundraising or marketing partner to continue to build his skill set and confidence, and vice versa. You’ll have the opportunity to grow on your own, and through the way your partner grows. This is the only way true love—or a good partnership—can flourish.

4. Do new things to keep the spark alive.

Keeping the spark alive in your partnership with fundraising or marketing colleagues is vital but often overlooked. Don’t let it flicker and die.

I see this pattern all too often: You partner hard with your colleagues to get over past patterns (back in the days you were each grounded in your own silo), develop strategies to work together, start to have some fun and watch early successes come in. You’re feeling confident and engaged. Work is more interesting than ever, but then…

Contentment sets in, you start to take the fundraising or marketing folks for granted (and vice versa) and gradually, you fall into your old ways. Your tone changes, you don’t reach out as much, and most of the collaboration you had gotten into gear slows to a halt.

Keep it alive by making the effort to do new things and to enjoy new adventures. Refresh this so crucial partnership by taking brainstorming meetings off site for a change (this can make an unbelievable difference), bringing a program colleague into the discussion, or collaborating on a working session where together you’ll build your colleagues’ understanding of current and prospective donors, volunteers, program participants or advocates; train them in dialoguing to strengthen relationships; and ask them to share the insights they gain.

Follow these four steps for a fundraising-marketing partnership that breaks records in building understanding of your supporters and engaging them for the long run. And makes your daily to-do list more interesting than ever.

What’s getting in the way of your fundraising-marketing partnership? Or if you’ve nurtured a tight one, how did you get there? Please share your challenges or recommendations here.

Nancy Schwartz in Fundraising | 4 comments


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  • I disagree strongly with having one person responsible for marketing and development. One department will suffer unless its a tiny organization. However, I absolutely agree that the departments must work closely and have a unified plan and message. I have worked in both circumstances and I am shocked by the opportunities wasted when that one person wearing two hats can’t address options that could benefit the organization. They are too busy. They are OK at both jobs but excell at neither. Thanks, Laura Coyle

  • We do not have a marketing department, but have the support of volunteers who will contribute their services in graphics, ad space, and social media posting. As the fundraising department continues to raise the bar in engaging existing donors and reaching out to the community, we struggle with time constraints. We are currently working on an August event that ties in to our mission, and does not have a “silo effect”. Are there tips for quick marketing guidelines?

  • Robi

    Hear, hear, Laura. One person cannot do it all and do it well, whether the organization is tiny or not. Nonprofits need to commit to and invest in a solid program of fundraising and cohesive marketing; expecting one or two people within an organization to handle the work of an entire team is a set up for failure and/or loss of quality and/or severe burnout.

    Another great post from Nancy. I wish more nonprofits understood that it really does take a team of colleagues working toward a unified purpose to accomplish the excellent fundraising and relationship-nurturing necessary for a strong program.

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Ellen, if I could give you only one thing to focus on, it would be how can you use the event to strengthen your relationships with each of your target audiences, including folks who won’t actually be at the even.t I’d think of it as a celebration, of your stakeholders/constituents if possible.

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