In many organizations, the marketing and development teams are seated within the same department or, at the very least, adjacent departments. And that’s no surprise: Marketers serve as storytellers and conduits for a relationship with a brand, and fund developers are relationship builders and personal representatives of the organizations they serve.
By implementing a few key strategies, this can create a meaningful, substantive and creative relationship built on shared goals, common tactics and a love for the organization. Indeed, it can often be life-giving for an organization, both for its staff and its coffers.
From my seat in the marketing department, here are the tips that make for a successful collaboration:
Bring us in early.
We can help shape messaging, ensure a consistent brand experience, and help gather and tell stories to donors and other stakeholder groups. Also, we can help strategize on the best ways to reach donors through a variety of channels. We’d love to brainstorm the perfect campaign to reach a new or challenging audience with you—and then help put it into action.
One of the biggest challenges a marketing department faces is making sure there is adequate space on the schedule to push out key messages at the right time. Help the planning process by alerting your marketing colleagues to key fundraising events, goals, or deadlines.
Let’s talk about data.
Marketing departments are often a fountain of information about the audiences the brand serves, so make sure you are having a conversation about market research. It’s possible that some of their future or existing research can inform development work.
Conversely, the donor database can be immensely helpful to a marketing department as it continues to refine its own knowledge about its core audiences. Marketers don’t need to see confidential data to mine the donor database for rich information about trends, demographics, and even psychographic information. This helps both the marketing work and fundraising work.
Use a multi-channel approach.
Development is most often about personal relationships, and that’s where the development officers shine. They know their portfolio and their donors’ needs on a personal basis. Share that information with your marketing team members; it will help shape their strategies and content.
The marketing department can help expand the prospects at the top of the funnel through a multi-channel approach. Long gone are the days of a twice a year appeal letter; now there is crowdfunding, social media campaigns, days of giving campaigns, appeal videos, and on and on. It can be overwhelming and constantly changing. By working together, you can leverage the strengths of both departments in a meaningful way.
Share in successes and results.
Make sure you are communicating back and forth about the results of a particular fundraising goal or campaign. This gives the marketing team a real goal to aim for and also important feedback about what is working (and what’s not).
Sharing in the work can also bring about important and affirming relationships between colleagues so that when big challenges arise, there is a firm foundation of trust and context.
Have other tips for working together as fundraisers and marketers? Please leave them in the comments!
Aja May Pirtle has two decades of experience in marketing and fundraising in nonprofits, government, and education. She currently serves as managing director of marketing and communications for the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.