There’s something killing your nonprofit’s marketing and fundraising.
Corrupting. Sullying. Debasing. Adulterating.
Yup, yup, yup, yup.
A silent killer. Insidious.
Know what it is?
I’ve crafted a two-part series of articles to tell you not just what it is, but also how to stop it from happening.
Before I tell you, think about this for a moment.
What’s holding you back?
Why aren’t you able to be more effective when it comes to raising both awareness and money?
I know you try. A lot.
But the progress just seems so incremental. Or, even worse, non-existent.
What’s the deal?
I’m going to give you both an answer, and a solution. But first…
Jot down a few ideas as to why you’re not progressing as you wish.
Does it have to do with things or persons?
With you, or others?
It’s probably a combination, but try to boil this down to its essence.
What one barrier really stands in your way?
What causes you to make decisions you know are bad ones, or ones you’re somewhat skeptical about?
Go ahead. Jot. It will help you crystallize your thinking.
I’m going to wager your answers all boil down to one thing:
Your leaders are stymying good ‘development’ practices.
There are many ways in which this can manifest.
First, let’s stipulate the companion functions of marketing and fundraising tend to fall under the catch-all term of nonprofit ‘development,’ and the blame is often placed by leadership on the development director.
Your boss. Your senior management. Your board members. Your major donors.
All your VIP stakeholders who are (consciously or subconsciously) invested in the status quo.
Because it’s what they know. And it justifies their existence.
I’m not suggesting you simply turn the tables and blame these folks. Even if they might be blaming you.
Blaming is easy, but not particularly effective.
“The search for someone to blame is always successful.” – Robert Half
“If something goes wrong, it is more important to talk about who is going to fix it, than who is to blame.” – Francis J. Gable
You can’t fix a problem no one is able to name.
And most people have very little idea how development works.
But no one wants to admit this.
After all, they’re smart people used to being very effective in their jobs. And, really, how difficult could fundraising and nonprofit marketing be? It’s got to be easier than anything these folks do in “real” life, right? (Dirty little secret: A lot of folks who’ve worked their whole lives in for-profit believe nonprofit work is for those who can’t cut it in the ‘business’ world. And, of course, that’s why they need to have boards to advise them – so they don’t go off track).
The problem: stakeholders who don’t understand the stakes.
Your leaders do their best. Much of the time, it just happens to be nowhere good enough.
You see, these folks are being called on regularly to judge the efficacy of your marketing and fundraising. So they judge based on what they know. And what they know is what they’ve always done. Sometimes it’s what they’ve never done.
They hired you to be a creative. A cutting-edge practitioner. Even a trend setter.
But they won’t let you do your job.
And then they blame you for not doing your job.
This is the proverbial ‘Catch 22.’
What can/should you do about this?
It’s tempting to throw your arms up in the air and simply give up. Go along to get along. But this serves no one well. Not your organization. Not you.
When results don’t pan out as anticipated, who will get thrown under the bus?
Hint: It won’t be leadership.
Leaders say “the development person didn’t work out.”
I hear this all the time. I’ll ask: “What precisely went wrong?” I’ll get: “They didn’t know what they were doing.”
I hear the same thing from development and marketing directors when I ask what isn’t working. I’ll get: “My boss thinks s/he knows everything and simply won’t listen to my expertise.”
Of course, you’ve likely heard the old adage: When you point one finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you.
As appealing as it may be to place blame elsewhere, resist.
The blame game gets you nowhere.
Especially because the locus of the blame is often misplaced.
So you’re likely to end up in exactly the same place. With another person to blame.
Another staffer who won’t work out.
Another leader who won’t understand.
Because the blame game has no winners.
A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. – Arnold H. Glasow
And with regards to development – what works/what doesn’t — the rules of the game you’re playing are fluid. In fact, they’re in rapid transition.
Understand and embrace the fact the rules of development are changing.
Digital disruption. Social media. Content marketing. Search. Mobile. Marketing automation. Big data. Predictive analytics. Inbound. Journey mapping. Artificial intelligence. All sorts of cool new tools to facilitate just about everything in online fundraising, stewardship, donor acquisition, retention and upgrading.
If you embrace the change, you’re competitive. You have a chance at success.
If not… I’m worried for you.
Because just because people who led you succeeded in the old world does not mean they’re equipped to succeed in today’s world.
While there are many important fundamentals that remain the same, effective development practice today is not what it was when I entered the field over three decades ago. It pains me to say this, because it makes me feel like an old dog.
Old dogs have to learn new tricks.
Stay central to the lives of your constituents and your community by fulfilling on your promises, demonstrating relevance and offering value.
Yet pair the fundamentals of engagement — matching your values with those of your donors — with today’s reality.
You must meet people where they are, and not where you wish they would be. Or where they were five years ago. Just about everyone today is part of “Generation C” (connected), and this knows no demographic boundaries.
You must make it easy for people to find you. If you rely on finding them, you’ll be behind the curve. People today are online all the time. If you’re not much of a presence there, your very legitimacy will be called into question.
You must make it easy for people to advocate on your behalf. If you share a great article, but then have limited share buttons or other ways for folks to send the article to their friends, you’ll miss opportunities.
You must make it easy, and compelling, to give to you. And for people to feel satisfied and happy they invested with you so they’ll be inclined to do so again.
That’s not the way we’ve always done things.
When I hear this, it’s a HUGE red flag.
- When you were a baby, someone spoon fed you. It’s unlikely that’s how you eat today.
- When I attended college, I typed my entire senior thesis on a typewriter (using white-out as necessary). That’s not how I write today.
- I used to go to the library to research new topics. That’s now how I do research today.
You need to call out red flags when you see them.
You must find a balance between innovation and status quo. What worked in the past doesn’t always work today. Or, at least it doesn’t work very well.
Whenever someone overrules a good idea just because it’s a new or unfamiliar one, they’re committing the mistake of closed-mindedness.
What do you do when you encounter a closed mind?
You endeavor to open it.
That’s what I try to do with ‘Clairification.’ I try to shine a light on things so what is murky becomes clear.
And when you allow someone to second guess your work, overrule your judgment or otherwise kill your best ideas – often through sheer lack of thought or ignorance – guess who’s really at fault?
SUMMARY: PART 1
- Figure out what’s holding you back from reaching your fundraising and marketing goals.
- In what important ways is your organization not adapting to the digitally revolutionized marketplace?
- If there is a person or people getting in your way, who are they?
- Why are these obstacles seemingly insurmountable?
- What can you do to turn things around, or at least make incremental improvements?
In Part 2, we’ll look at how you can take the reins, shine a light on what’s holding you and your organization back, and begin to make some changes to dynamics that are no longer serving your organization well. Stay tuned!
Need Help Changing Your Existing Dynamics?
Here are two options:
1. Grab my 7 Clairification Keys to Unlock Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Potential. Through a series of clairifying worksheets and individual and group exercises, this 23-page guide will give you fresh insights into how fundraising and marketing have changed more in the past 5 years than in the previous 50.
2. Hire me for an Hour of Power. Or for some ongoing coaching for your development, marketing or other executive staff. I will deliver focus, honest feedback and strategic thinking.