Communications strategies can get you in front of that coveted audience, but what’s the game plan from there? A development team knows statistics and impact that speak to donors, but where’s the initial hello? Making the bridge between the two, and creating a streamlined engagement plan, is the key to converting outreach effort to dollars.
For many organizations though, development and communications are often siloed. Rather than working together to achieve mutual goals, the two departments operate in isolation, often engaged in a tug of war over staff time and budget.
I think the divide comes down to different jumping off points: Communications wants to plug the organization into the outside world, and development wants to plug the outside world into the organization. Communications is not fundraising, but if done right can lead to it. Both development and communications are critical pieces of a people-moving spectrum.
Here are a few ways to get the ball rolling:
Coordinate calendars. This may be something you already do, but I’m surprised by how many organizations do not know what messages are going out when. Put yourself in your donors’ (and potential donors’) shoes. They do not differentiate what department a newsletter or appeal was sent from, nor should they be able to. Are they getting several asks and information piled on and then radio silence? Are they reading about different critical needs in the newsletter than they are in the appeal? Streamlined outreach with a coordinated message moves people from prospect to donor to ambassador.
Don’t recreate the wheel. Talk to each other, ask questions, and decide collaboratively on the most compelling language and materials to use. Communications is meant to boil down the complexities of your organization into tight, poignant messaging that can be used in direct mail, newsletters, and online communications to donors. The development team has their eye on what the hot selling item is—a new program, client story, or change in the needs you are addressing that can help the communications team determine new outlets or angles to pitch in media relations. The information you seek is probably already there within your team.
Repeat. Ongoing communication is the key. One check in is a start, but to build trust and a system to keep the channels of communication open, make meetings regular and frequent.
The bottom line is this: Development and communications have different specialties, but they are part of the same larger effort. Working together and understanding the other team’s expertise will not only smooth the external facing messaging, but will probably help ease and smooth out internal communications as well.
Check back next week for a follow-up post including concrete ways to get the most bang for your buck by aligning development and communications teams to hit your fundraising goals.