January 10, 2017

Fundraising Communication with Impact

Communication and marketing is not necessarily directly tied to fundraising, but it helps to have an open, collaborative relationship between those two functions of the organization. Marketing typically sells the now of an organization, while fundraising and development engages donors with a vision of what could be. As a result, fundraising needs to be a strategic extension of any current marketing effort, and both need to be deeply connected to the mission and vision of the organization.

In smaller organizations, fundraising and marketing/communications are often combined into one single job description. That can be good in the sense that fundraising and marketing are definitely on the same page. It can also be bad, because good marketing and communication efforts require planning, execution and time. All that takes away from active donor engagement and fundraising. Some organizations put great value into their annual report and quarterly newsletters. In smaller nonprofits in particular it’s worth investigating if the investment of staff time in the creation of these pieces is producing the intended results and return on investment.

Donors need to know that the organization is managing their revenue and expenses appropriately, and how much of their donation is helping make an impact. Some financial reporting by the organization is also legally required. The key is to find a balance between:

  • Information that needs to be shared.
  • Information that engages donors through stories and inspires donations.
  • Pleasing internal stakeholders, but potentially not effectively connecting with external audiences. Internal stakeholders are important, but balance is key.

Some fundraisers opt to eliminate glossy newsletters and annual reports, because the investment in staff time, and print and mailing cost can be substantial. This approach may work for some organizations, but generally speaking a nonprofit with a history of producing certain communication pieces will have a difficult time letting go of those “sacred cows”. That doesn’t mean publications should continue indefinitely and without review and discussion. Whether the communication is done digitally or in print, through social media or more traditional mechanisms, each piece should be reviewed with the following questions in mind:

  • Is the information required to be made available to the public (the organization’s annual revenue and expense report being a good example)?
  • Can the information be shared or distributed through different means? For example, could the annual report be published on the organization’s website instead of mailing it out to key stakeholders and donors?
  • Does it need to be produced in print, or can it be done exclusively electronically?
  • How does this particular publication or communication channel help connect the organization with various stakeholders?
  • Is it reaching the right audience?
  • How can we ensure that it reaches the audience we want to reach?
  • Do we have permission to contact our intended audience through this channel or with this piece of communication? If not, how do we get permission?
  • Does it help us attract new volunteers?
  • Does it help us attract new donors and gifts?

These questions are universal and should be considered whether you are looking at your printed annual report, your email newsletter, your Facebook page, or your Twitter account. And even with the rules of social media platforms constantly changing, these questions and considerations generally remain relevant.

Marketing and communication can play a big part in helping reach out to individuals the organization tries to serve, and in attracting new volunteers and donors. A steady stream of information coming from the organization through social media, press releases, and printed materials can also set the stage with current and potential donors. If there is a baseline of understanding about the organization already established, it makes any future conversations between fundraiser and prospective donor that much more substantive. Therefore, any successful nonprofit needs to execute its marketing strategy in close integration with its fundraising program.

About Marc Huber

Marc Huber is a fundraising professional with over seventeen years of experience, including strategic messaging, board development, annual giving, capital campaigns, and volunteer consultation and training. He's also the author of The Fundraising Co-Pilot.

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