Some things just don’t mix, like cats and dogs, oil and water, windows and rocks.
Unfortunately, you can often throw fundraisers and nonprofit communications professionals into that group.
In many nonprofit organizations, the fundraising and communications teams are kept far from each other. Each group has its own little realm, and each protects its kingdom fiercely. Having a team that takes ownership over their responsibilities is not inherently a bad thing. Still, problems can arise when this ownership inhibits the ability of teams to work together towards a common goal.
And when it comes to fundraising and communications, this problem can be a serious problem…
Digital Fundraising = Marketing
Do you know who the most successful online fundraisers are? The ones with the biggest audience and reach. Digital fundraising is a numbers game: the more eyes you can get on a campaign, the more it will raise. This traffic comes from various sources: email lists, links from outside sites, press coverage, social media, and more.
If your communications team keeps a tight grip on the email list, social media accounts, and PR contacts, your online fundraising campaign will have difficulty reaching its goal.
New Contacts = New Prospects
Not only can a lack of collaboration sabotage your online fundraising, but it can also stymie your mid-level and major gift programs. Major gift officers must constantly be looking for new prospects to cultivate. A marketing team can get hundreds of new email contacts into your organization’s database monthly.
There’s certainly mid-level and major gift potential in that pool, but if it’s off-limits to the development team, it’s being wasted.
So what can you do to foster collaboration between fundraising and communications?
Align Their Goals
Your fundraising team knows the importance of your campaign. They know how much they want to secure from major donors, corporate sponsors, and online campaigns. But if your communications team isn’t on the same page, they probably don’t have the slightest idea about the online campaign, the goal, or why development needs their help.
Aligning the communications team’s goals will incentivize them to prioritize the campaign, opening up access to the mailing list, social media accounts, and press contacts to help reach that goal.
How do you set those goals? Use data, of course!
Calculate your value per visit (VPV) for your typical campaign page by dividing the total amount raised by the total page visits. This will give you an estimate of how much traffic your campaign will need to reach the fundraising goal. Bring that to your communications director and have her team get on it!
Many of the problems between fundraising and communications arise when either group feels their territory is being stepped on without warning. Communications likely have a strict schedule they maintain for emailing the list and posting on social media, and anything that disrupts this rhythm will be viewed as an intrusion.
They’re right about being protective: email lists are hard to build and easy to ruin. Too many messages, and you’ll see those open and click rates drop or get marked as spam.
So before your campaign gets rolling, talk to the communications team about how many messages you’d like to send the list to promote the campaign.
Again, use data to make these decisions. Take the traffic goal you set before and decide how much of that traffic needs to come from each channel.
Then, take a look at your open and click rates for emails (or check out these industry standards from MailChimp). From there, you should be able to determine how many clicks each email will get based on the size of your list. Divide the total number of visits from the email you need; that will tell you how many emails you’ll need to send to hit your goal.
Give Them Something to Work With
If you’re going to ask communications to give up some access to their assets, you’d better return the favor, right?
Communications teams continually look for stories to tell to engage your organization’s audience. Many times, this takes the form of stories from the people or causes your organization works to help.
However, donor stories can provide valuable content that engages an audience and encourages others to give.
Help your communications team out by opening access to donors and their stories of why they give. Find your biggest “donor advocates” and connect them with the social media team so they can get that story out there. Not only will this help the development team in the future, but you’re providing a valuable resource to the communications department that will foster a sense of two-way collaboration between teams.
Different Jobs, Same Goal
Ultimately, everyone in your organization has the same goal: to serve your cause to the best of your abilities. For the fundraising team, that means securing the funds needed to keep the programs running and growing. For the communications team, it means getting the message of your organization out to the public in a big way.
When those two departments work together, both teams benefit, and your organization’s goal can be met in a big way.