If I were to ask you about the relationship between marketing and fundraising in the non-profit sector, I would likely get widely different responses. Some would argue that there is a crucial link between the two. Others would say that they are areas that work quite independently. Of course, there would likely also be a myriad of answers that lie between the two extremes.
When it comes to non-profits, one problem that has often been emphasized is the tendency to form silos between departments, particularly in larger organizations. While silos can be problematic in general, they can be even more frustrating when the silo is between fundraising and marketing. The reality is that synergy between the two areas can greatly advance a non-profit’s mission as well as its fundraising success.
The Myths of Fundraising
The purpose of marketing is to raise awareness of a product or service. The purpose of fundraising is to raise money. Reading those two statements, it would seem that they are quite distinct in function. However, this changes significantly when non-profit organizations are involved. After all, the service for a non-profit is improving society in some way with fundraising serving as the catalyst for extending that service.
Within the fundraising area, there seems to be a fairly good understanding that there is an overlap between fundraising and marketing. However, many marketing professionals may not see how complementary the two truly are. This tends to come down to some myths about fundraising.
If you don’t work directly in fundraising, you likely view it as a transactional discipline. Many people view fundraising as all about “the ask.” While that is important, it is the end of a long process that involves lots of relationship building. Successful fundraising is far from transactional but often rather transformational in nature.
It often seems as if many people outside of the fundraising sphere view fundraising as a bit of a dirty word. This makes sense as it can be quite uncomfortable to talk about asking for money if it isn’t part of your job. But fundraising should not be seen as a taboo activity solely in the realm of fundraisers. Instead, it must be embraced as a central function to the success of the broader mission. We need to start creating a culture of fundraising inside our organizations.
Searching for the Sweet Spot
When we think about marketing in terms of non-profit campaigns, the ultimate goal is extending the nonprofit’s mission, not raising money. However, successful marketing campaigns are critical to fundraising in many ways such as telling the story, showing proof of accomplishment, and demonstrating further need. The reality is that fundraising and marketing simply should not be independent of one another. Instead, it is important to search for that sweet spot of collaboration.
Obviously, non-profit organizations will vary significantly from one to the other in terms of things such as mission, size, scope, and structure. However, here are some ideas for places to start when it comes to identifying synergies between marketing and fundraising.
It is very important to build relationships with donors. Failure to do so makes it highly likely that a gift may end up being just a one-time thing. Donor retention is a great way for marketing and fundraising to partner.
Fundraising isn’t solely about money. It is often about the values and emotional connection for donors. Marketing can help leverage the ability to engage in storytelling. This can help inform donors about the difference their gift makes and the shared values with the organization.
Small Embedded Asks
As mentioned, it is natural for discomfort to come up when talking about money. But money is what powers nonprofits to achieve their missions, so we need to move past our fear of it. But if you’re uncomfortable, start small. A good way to begin building some comfort in collaboration is for small, embedded asks.
Marketing campaigns and social media posts can easily include a link to donating to the organization in an informational, non-salesy way. Something as simple as “people can donate to this cause at this link” can get the point across without taking away from the overarching message.
An excellent way to facilitate collaboration is through sharing data. Both fundraising and marketing are data-driven disciplines. However, this data may not be readily shared in many organizations. This presents another strong opportunity.
Marketing likely has data that would be quite valuable for fundraising staff such as who is engaging on social media channels. Meanwhile, fundraising can share data such as who is giving and why with marketing which can help guide storytelling in the future.
Tips for Building These Synergies
Depending on the level of the traditional separation between your marketing and fundraising areas, facilitating collaboration may happen at different paces. Once you’ve begun to tear down those silos, here are some tips for continuing to build synergy.
Recognize Areas for Support
There are many ways in which marketing and fundraising can support one another in different ways. Here are just a few ways that marketing can directly support fundraising:
- Designing fundraising materials
- Working on different pitching approaches
- Evolving brand strategies and executions
There are also types of marketing communication that don’t involve fundraising but can be crucial for supporting donor engagement and retention including these:
- Thought leadership
- Board communication
- Public interest communication
- Issue awareness
Identify Metrics for Success
Identifying the right metrics for collaborative efforts to evaluate their success is key. For example, common marketing metrics may include things like attendance, sign-ups, participation, and new supporters.
Meanwhile, common metrics for fundraising include things like open rates, clicks, conversions, and subscriptions. Working together to identify the right metrics to measure the impact of a collaborative initiative can help both areas to assess their effectiveness on the project.
Connect Through Social Media
The most successful non-profit organizations operate with strong two-way communication on social media. It is not just a mouthpiece to get messages out to the audience but also a way to allow your audience to engage.
This can be further developed to add greater synergy to fundraising efforts. For example, direct messaging can be a powerful way to begin relationship building. This is another area where developing a strong partnership simply makes good sense.
Come Back to Organizational Pillars
Long-term organizational success can be strengthened by consistently coming back to your organization’s primary pillars, mission, and values. This is how you connect with the community, build your brand, and retain donors. It is critical for both fundraising and marketing functions.
Fundraising staff can leverage the expertise of their partners in marketing in this manner. Showing the existence of a problem and how the organization has a long track record of addressing that problem effectively is one of the best ways to keep donors engaged. It helps them see the value in their contributions.
In many non-profits, fundraising, and marketing often operate in silos. While the organization may be doing well – and even thriving – it will not truly reach its full potential until synergies between these two areas are developed. While they are separate functions, working together can greatly enhance objectives for both, building a brand and bringing in more money. For organizations needing additional expertise and access to cutting-edge digital tools, Feathr.co makes it easy for non-profits to run marketing campaigns that generate strong returns.