What can a communications professional learn from a marketing and fundraising course?
As it turns out, a great deal. The Fund Raising School course “Effective Marketing for Successful Fundraising” in mid-October had a mix of practitioners who work specifically as marketers, and fundraisers who wanted to learn more about marketing. I observed a few sessions in order to see if I could learn any tidbits to impact my own work.
Marnie Maxwell, the president of Maxwell Associates, Inc., and Nathan Hand, Chief Advancement Officer at The Oaks Academy, co-taught the course. Maxwell has extensive experience working with nonprofits, including The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and has taught with The Fund Raising School for almost 30 years. Hand is a master’s degree graduate of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and has a great deal of practical knowledge, having worked with organizations like Christel House, The Mind Trust, and School on Wheels.
One of the strengths of The Fund Raising School is its faculty members. They all bring diverse experiences and knowledge, as well as unique teaching styles, to the courses. Just look at the previous paragraph: I listed two faculty members who have worked in advancement in some capacity for museums, K-12 schools, human services organizations, and more. Are you coming from one area of the sector? Most likely, they’ve got experience in that area.
Anyway, I digress. Here are my four + one key “takeaways” (not in any particular order, but counted down from four because why not?) from two sessions of the “Effective Marketing” course.
4. Shape your message
Marketing is about creating, communicating, and delivering. What message do you want to share with your donors, clients, or customers? How can you shape this message to meet the needs and interests of your stakeholders? What tools can you use to shape this message?
From my own experience, I shape and share the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s message through stories, research, and expert knowledge on the blog platform. We have multiple tools that shape our message about philanthropy and multiple messages conveyed every day, but we’ve thought strategically about how we shape that message and what audiences we seek to reach, and we continue to ask ourselves the above questions every day.
3. Get into the shoes of your customer/client/donor
What do your stakeholders want to know? How are you tailoring your messages to fit their interests?
Hand emphasized that setting realistic plans and goals is essential to a marketing plan. Setting those requires one to “walk a mile” in your customer’s or donor’s shoes.
Want to test this theory? Donate a small amount to your own organization and see what happens. What communications do you receive?
Look at your marketing platforms from an objective perspective. What information are you communicating? Are there ways that you could be doing it better?
Conducting an internal Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis will help you identify your strong and weak points and help you craft and tailor your messages.
2. What you think you know versus what you actually know
We’re in the trenches daily, doing our absolute best to increase giving and volunteering. Do we think something to be true, or do we actually have information that says it is?
I have my opinions about topics, but I try to find information or ask around to back that up. I find that amongst wiser and more experienced colleagues, or younger ones with fresh perspectives, I always learn something new. I then try to incorporate those insights into my own work.
1. Mission: not just the what, but the why
Does your mission explain why your organization exists? Not the ‘what’ (i.e. the activities you do), but ‘why.’
The school’s mission in a nutshell is to improve philanthropy to improve the world. The mission doesn’t list all of our activities (academic programs, research, events with leaders in the field, professional training, etc., etc., etc.), but it says why we do it.
Is philanthropy perfect? Of course not. There are a lot of issues with it, and our mission implies that. We’re improving philanthropy, not just learning, teaching, researching about it.
So, why do you do the work that you do?
+1. I took what I learned from two sessions of this course, and applied it to my own work situation. As a communications professional, I learned new insights (or was reminded of other ones). Fundraisers and other marketers can learn ideas, principles, and tools, and take actionable steps back to the organization they work for.
So, what are you waiting for? The next “Effective Marketing for Successful Fundraising” will take place March 23-26, 2020 in Indianapolis. Learn more and register.