Fundraise Smarter

Why Your Fundraising and Communication Teams MUST Work Together

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on Aug 3, 2015 10:00:00 AM

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Cats and dogs, oil and water, windows and rocks, some things just don’t mix.

Unfortunately, you can throw fundraisers and nonprofit communications professionals into that group many times.

In many nonprofit organizations, the fundraising and communications teams are kept far away from each other. Each group has their own little realm and each protects their kingdom fiercely. Having a team that takes ownership over their responsibilities is not inherently a bad thing, but 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

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 a variety of sources: email lists, links from outside sites, press coverage, social media, and more; the realm of your communications team.

If your communications team keeps a tight grip on the email list, social media accounts, and PR contacts, your online fundraising campaign is going to have a difficult time reaching its goal.

New Contacts = New Prospects

Not only can a lack of collaboration sabotage your online fundraising, it can stymie your mid-level and major gift programs as well. Major gift officers need to be constantly on the lookout for new prospects to cultivate, and a good marketing team can get hundreds of new email contacts into your organization’s database a month.

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, from corporate sponsors, and from 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 make the campaign a priority, 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 leave you with an estimate of how much traffic your campaign will need in order to reach the fundraising goal. Bring that to your director of communications and have her team get on it!

By the way, we have a super handy Crowdfunding Calculator that will do all the math for you.

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Set Expectations

Many of the problems between fundraising and communications arise when either group feels their territory is being stepped on without warning. Communications likely has 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 for 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 worse: 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 (another thing you can figure out with our Crowdfunding Calculator).

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 figure out how many clicks each email will get based on the size of your list. Divide the total number of visits from email you need and 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 are always looking for stories to tell that will 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

In the end, everyone at your organization has the same goal: the serve your cause to the best of your abilities. For fundraising, that means securing the funds needed to keep the programs running and growing. For communications, 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 the goal of the organization can be met in a big way.

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Topics: Online giving, online fundraising

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