Why are Good Nonprofit Fundraisers Hard to Keep? MONEY
The fact that development and marketing are charged with making the same relationship-building and communications decisions means that it is time, once and for all, to actively align these functions. Yesterday in Part 1 we discussed the natural linkages between these functions and that, first and foremost, everything we do is about the customer experience. Today, we’ll elaborate so that we can persuade the “powers that be” of the need for a united front.
Key points of persuasion:
- Development and marketing have the same two basic decisions to make: (1) which “product” to offer, and (2) which channel(s) to message in. Put another way, the right product must be offered in the right way to the right customer. If marketing and development are targeting the same constituents (and there is always significant overlap), yet each choose a different product or channel, we’re already in trouble. Development and marketing efforts must have coherence. Yet too often no one has authority (or too many people share authority); the result is anarchy.
- We can no longer get away with inconsistent messaging due to the proliferation of messaging channels that is finally clarifying for people the fact that marketing and development are one and the same. In both the development and marketing worlds, everywhere you go you hear about “multi-channel” this and that. Fundraisers are starting to understand that we no longer just write fundraising letters and grant proposals. We must write for the website, mobile devices, tablet devices, social networks, micro-blogs and more. All of our content must cater to these formats, while delivering a unique and tailored fit for our users.
- Neither development staff nor marketing staff can effectively make choices or analyze results in a vacuum. They must work together in creating the messages, engaging in the dialogue and measuring the outcomes. Then they must collaborate to continue this decision-making process, tweaking strategies as customers change behaviors.
- Everything we do is (fill in the blank with “development”; “marketing”, “customer service”). The point is that we cannot separate who we are from our relationship with our customers. In the world of NPOs it has long been accepted wisdom that everything we do is development. We have strived to create an organization-wide culture of philanthropy, understanding that the way the phone is answered has a lot to do with ultimately creating and sustaining donor investment. Now, people are saying that everything we do is marketing, and that everyone in our organization is a marketer. The only way these theses can both be true is if development and marketing are…. drum roll please… the same thing!
Unless everyone in the organization adopts a customer-service oriented perspective, truly understanding we are all working toward the same goals, all our efforts can be undermined in an instant. In today’s digitally connected world this is truer than ever. As Gerry McGovern, founder and CEO of Customer Carewords notes:
At the end of the day, customers no longer separate marketing from the product-it is the product. They don’t separate marketing from their in-store or online experience-it is the experience.
Where we used to divide responsibility for customer touch points among functions (e.g., marketing, sales, public relations, development, alumni relations, etc.), we now require a comprehensive strategy for engaging constituents. Why? Because the only way to be effective in engaging constituents is to do so from their perspective. And they don’t see the same divisions we see. All of their interactions with us are related in their minds.
A former boss used to introduce me as the “Director of Donor Experiences.” This was right on the money (pun intended). If we want to generate value, we have to offer value. And value is something that is in the eye of the beholder. We have to look into our customers’ eyes, listen to their words, pay attention to their gestures, and really learn who they are. If not, we’re bound to make common communication missteps that put our own opinions above knowledge and do not serve our purposes of making a clearly communicated brand promise we consistently keep.
The donor experience, like the customer experience, is something we have to look at on a macro level. It’s all encompassing. There is nothing more irritating and demoralizing than working your butt off to cultivate and steward a donor, only to find out that a receptionist treated them rudely or a program staffer repeatedly failed to return their calls.
For all of our constituents, whatever we call it, development/marketing is their experience with us. The Roadmap to Revenue, whether it be contributed or earned, is similar. It involves a full positioning of our value to our customers at every point of engagement with us. When we insist on separating the two functions, our constituents perceive a disconnect. We confuse and confound them. Worst of all, we miss out on opportunities to deliver a fully baked experience.
Who wants a raw potato, however you name it?
READERS: Please share suggestions about how to effectively align the relationship-building, customer service and business advancement functions of development and marketing.
Thank you, Claire, great post. Why oh why, do we let semantics trip us up? A lot of money has been wasted proving that nonprofits can match corporate-speak. Corporations can learn a lot from nonprofits–how to be resourceful, nimble, leaner, accountable, transparent, effective, and customer-focused for starters. We are all philanthropists, we are all customers, we are all working to make life better. Can we focus on that and not the fluff?
Thanks Neila. Not only do we get caught up in semantics, we get caught up in labels. It goes to our sense of identity. If I got an MBA in marketing, I (or my boss) may think I'm more "businesslike" than my counterpart who may have 10 years experience in development and a Ph.D in sociology. And now nonprofits have a love affair with "business" people. Businesses think the same way; however, they do NOT value folks who've worked in nonprofits in the same way. We forget that it's fundamentally all about people and offering something that folks can believe in. Something that matters. As you note, those who labor in the nonprofit vineyards could teach corporations a thing or two about philanthropy — love of humankind.