It’s that time of year: fundraising planning. Time to take a good hard look at the expense column and determine what strategies are going to get your organization to the fiscal year finish line next June. Even if you aren’t on the traditional fiscal year, there are things your team can begin doing to get a head start on next year.
One key to executing a lean fundraising program that yields results? Harmony between development and communications. As I wrote about last week, these two entities are often siloed, operating in isolation instead of working together to achieve mutual goals. When communications and development teams collaborate, the organization gets the most bang for its buck, and the most bucks for the organization.
Each department has expertise and strengths. Development knows the detailed program statistics and outcomes that keep supporters loyal. Communications sees the organization through the lens of an outsider and gets the message in front of the public in a compelling way. My roots are in grant writing, and I remember the initial frustration of rounded numbers, chopped prose and complex programs simplified into pithy descriptions. What I came to understand is that communications helps the development effort because, let’s be honest, people who don’t know you yet (read: potential donors) don’t care about that level of detail.
Consider this: Nora here at Fenton knows I exercise, so she asks if I want to join her for a workout at her climbing gym. She does not tell me how many square feet the gym is, or how many members it has. She tells me it is fun and challenging. That’s it. After seeing that she’s right, the climbing gym is fun and challenging, I want to learn more about the facility and hours, and even invest in a membership. That’s the harmony of communications and fundraising working together.
So, where do you start? Here are four tangible ways to pull communications and fundraising together to bump up your revenue in the coming year:
- Your Board. Board giving and fundraising is a big opportunity that many nonprofits are still not taking advantage of. What tools does your board have to help them meet fundraising goals? Do they know what’s expected of them? Do they have an elevator pitch or do they stodgily recite the mission statement? Fired-Up fundraiser Gail Perry has a great go-to guide to start that conversation with your board and put one of your best assets to work.
- Potential Donors and Prospects. Too often nonprofits and foundations view their audiences in demographic segments pulled from a database, not through an emotional insights perspective. But if you don’t know them or their interests yet, what’s your opening line? You don’t have to go full-on Don Draper, but do consider what your entry point is in their everyday lives—not just how they can help your organization.
- Major Events. When your big fundraising event is over, your communications opportunities are just beginning. Nonprofits are missing a huge opportunity to bring on new constituents through follow up communications. What are you doing with the new list of contacts? How are they being engaged? The Chronicle of Philanthropy offers a quick case study using the Emelin Theatre’s annual event to keep post-event momentum going.
- Master Narrative, a.k.a Boilerplate. A revamped master narrative, or boilerplate language, can go a long way. Keep in mind my climbing gym example to help determine what level of information is appropriate. Think about all of the donor and potential donor applications: website and email communications, donor appeals, newsletters, annual reports, elevator pitch for development and board members, talking points for spokespersons, press materials, and so on.
These are just a few strategies organizations can use to strengthen outreach using communications tools and development follow up. Take an inventory of strategies already in place at your organization, and see where you could be pooling the collective expertise to pull in more money.