I just saw a Bloomerang blog post titled "The Secret to Creating a Nonprofit CEO Fundraising Machine". Their "secret" for success? Hire a fundraising coach to provide "strategies and formulas" for improving fundraising efforts.
Not a bad idea, because in another article I found in the Philanthropy Journal, the importance of nonprofit outsourcing was discussed. In the article, they surveyed grantees of the Meyer Foundation and what they found of most importance was: "financial planning, communications, and finding and retaining qualified staff is where organizations needed help most. They also found that grantees' "most pressing" needs were improving their marketing and communications plans, which included updating their publications and marketing materials."
Here's a better idea; first consider a strategic marketing approach!
The principle role for leadership should be to create an environment conducive for philanthropy to thrive. Bloomerang is right, fundraising needs to concentrate on what's important to donors and what actions will retain those donors. Marketing gathers data about needs, which focuses programming, improving impact, which in turn builds relationships with donors. As my good friend and mentor Dick Zellner has said many times, "donors don't care about your needs, they care about their needs." Marketing works to understand what's important to stakeholders and then communicates your value in ways in which your target audience will connect. Your fundraising is no better than your organization's exciting plan for the future and the outcomes it provides to the community.
In building your culture of philanthropy, consider these three marketing-based principles:
1. Adopt a Systems Approach
In systems-thinking, each component of the system is evaluated based upon how it interacts with all the other components of the system. Your organization is not a cluster of individual silos of departmental tactics. Remember that marketing informs and communicates to all your functional activities. Your inputs and outputs should work together in harmony and marketing is the overarching glue that keeps them dynamic and focused.
2. Engage Your Stakeholders
Relationships are key to maintaining supporters; mere transactions are not enough to maintain balance. For instance, here’s just one example of a marketing-centric engagement strategy. At the Meyer Foundation, Vice President of Programs and Communications, Rick Moyers makes an interesting observation that all nonprofits should heed. "My changes of heart are most often sparked by leaders who are able to present their work as a compelling narrative that holds my attention, appeals to my emotions, and helps me identify with the organization and those it serves. These conversions — from skeptical acquaintance to enthusiastic ally — have happened to me so often that I’ve become convinced that almost all nonprofits could engage more supporters and have a greater impact if only they were better at telling their stories."
3. Everyone Participates
Nonprofit leaders should not allow themselves to put in the position where they alone are expected to raise resources. Building a culture of philanthropy begins with everyone understanding it’s their responsibility to build financial capacity, rather than just one or two people. To accomplish this goal, a marketing-centered case for funding should span across all staff, board, and other organizational positions. Marketing builds relationships and relationship building is a core component of fund development and an exciting plan for the future fuels the excitement to get involved. Put simply, everyone should be able to answer the question, “why should I give you any money?” A comprehensive marketing strategy is where you will find the answer to that question.