In my years as a full-time nonprofit employee, I was often a one-woman Marketing, Communications, Development, Outreach, Kitchen Sink department. In one position, I was all of those things plus the Volunteer Recruiter and Coordinator!
Not surprisingly (as I am sure this has happened to many of you or may be happening right now) I became burned out and disillusioned with the job.
It seemed like I was never able to fully succeed in one aspect, like I was treading water but not really going anywhere.
There were always too many fires to put out, too many competing tasks, not enough time to create relevant marketing campaigns or to build strong relationships with major donors.
What I soon came to realize is that a job description encompassing each diverse aspect of a marketing and communications position and a fundraising and development position is doomed to fail.
To put it simply – effective marketing gets people’s attention, and successful fundraising keeps it.
Effective nonprofit marketing gets people’s attention, and successful fundraising keeps it.
The two should be working together and not at cross-purposes, but they require completely different strategies and unique skillsets.
Marketers are Risk Takers
Marketers should be gutsy, spirited, outspoken, with their fingers on the pulse of trends and movements. They should fully understand the target market they aim to reach, inside and out, and where to reach them, whether it be social media, public radio, or events. (Or something else!)
In marketing, nonprofit professionals should always be asking – how can I get this message out to the widest number of people in my niche? How can I refine this message to grab attention and pique interest?
Fundraisers are Relationship Builders
Fundraisers need to be more strategic and more thoughtful in their work. This does NOT mean they get to be quiet and boring and sit in a corner, however!
Fundraising professionals cultivate delicate gardens of donors that will hopefully bear fruit year after year, if properly tended to. These donors have already paid attention to the organization – enough so that they opened up their wallets and gave money!
The saying goes that it’s infinitely cheaper to keep an existing donor than to find a completely new one. Good fundraisers are entirely focused on the donors’ wants, needs, and desires.
What do they expect and need to see in terms of impact? What is important to them? What keeps them giving year after year?
Small Nonprofits Have to Focus
So what is the solution for a small nonprofit with very few staff people?
You have to focus your time and your resources.
Good marketing will cast a wide net and bring in a lot of fish. Good fundraising will make sure those fish are viable and stay in the fold.
For both, you need compelling stories, crystal clear messaging, and a good sense of who your donors are and who you want to attract to your nonprofit.
For more on nonprofit storytelling, make sure to get the first chapter of my new book. Let me know what you think!
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