Digital strategy has joined offline channels (mail, phone, person-to-person etc.) as a critical part of integrated marketing and communications, and it continues to expand its influence on the overall fundraising landscape. To maximize digital’s fundraising impact, it is essential that fundraisers embrace digital collaboration -- a challenge left unaddressed at too many nonprofit organizations, and one that’s hurting the bottom line. In a nutshell: Disjointed communications by channel are hurting our donor relationships.
A lack of collaboration across departments and channels is simply dysfunctional, with a high cost to the nonprofit. It leads to missed opportunities, inconsistent messaging, and a failure to leverage best practice. It also makes genuine innovation impossible. While each department and channel must tailor communications, it is critical for the left hand to know what the right hand is doing, so that organizational messaging is cohesive.
What does digital dysfunction look like?
Here are the symptoms -- you may recognize a few or all of these…
Digital strategies that exclude or ignore fundraising best practice –- and vice versa
Stubborn resistance to digital from late-adopters, forcing you to constantly reiterate the necessity of your digital strategy
Digital experts who show derision for traditional communication channels
Fighting over turf -- who gets to implement what and who has the last say on strategy
Online communications and campaigns with dissonant messaging and cadence that don’t reinforce each other
Online communications and campaigns that lack coordinated schedules, which can lead to supporters getting too much, or not enough, communication
A fundraising team that is blindsided by communications going out –- possibly when hearing about it from a supporter
Failure to move forward or prioritize investment in the digital area, which can ultimately leave money on the table
So what should you do if you see this happening at your nonprofit?
Here are some concrete recommendations, based on our experience at Avalon, for making your digital strategy more collaborative:
Define organizational messaging and priorities first. This is critical to ensure that everyone knows the game plan and how to carry it out in their respective departments. What is the most compelling way to talk about what you do and how you’re making an impact? Do you want to cultivate donors, raise funds, engage, invite, inform, or recruit? Educate across departments, identify overlapping goals, and understand where you need to build from scratch. People should always ask -- how does this further our organizational goals?
Bring the right people to the table. Involve individuals who put the organization’s needs first, have an open mind, and are willing both to check their egos at the door and advocate for their best ideas, based on their expertise. You want people who engage in the process with respect and thoughtfulness, ultimately aiming toward constructive solutions.
Encourage cross-functional learning. Allow time for colleagues across departments to share relevant specialized knowledge, in order to better inform each participant’s perspective.
Manage meetings for successful collaboration. Begin each meeting with an agreed-upon agenda. Know your organization’s strategic priorities, and use them to kick off discussions about how to successfully implement them. End meetings with clear takeaways and action plans -- with responsible names attached to each step. And be sure to designate ambassadors from each department to resolve issues that arise outside formal discussions.
Eliminate incentives that emphasize individual employee or department goals over the organization’s strategic priorities. This change will reinforce the shared, organizational goals that bring you together in the first place -- and it will make strategic alignment much easier to achieve.
Finally, (nicely) remind everyone involved that we are all on the same team. We want your nonprofit to thrive and make an impact!