I’ve noticed a pretty big divide in the nonprofit marketing world over the years, and I really think it boils down to the extent to which you as a communications director are responsible for short-term fundraising results. This can have a big impact on the communications choices you make and on your own job satisfaction.
Some of you (I’d estimate about 20% of nonprofit marketers) work directly on development goals and feel responsible for raising money this year. I’d say about 30% do not have any real fundraising responsibilities. There is either a separate fundraising staff, or you are primarily funded via grants or fee for service. In this case your success is usually defined more by recruiting program participants or volunteers rather than donors, or by more broadly engaging your community, which can lead to longer-term fundraising successes.
That leaves the other 50% of you who are at least partially responsible for fundraising results, in some way. You are the ones I worry most about, because your jobs are much more likely to be poorly defined, which means success is poorly defined, and therefore you are much more likely to burn out and hate your job. We need all the creative, dedicated people we can get in this work, so I don’t want that to happen!
It’s not that having fundraising goals as a communications director is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just that the extent of the overlap needs to be clear to everyone upfront. Short-term fundraising goals may have a big impact on the tactical choices you make about who you are trying to reach, your message to them, and the communications tools you use. And you are only human, so you can only do so much.
If you aren’t sure about the extent to which you are really responsible for short-term fundraising results, you really need to discuss it as a staff.
These two pieces might help with the discussion . . .
- A blog post I wrote on how “fundraising” communicators approach communications differently from “community/brand building” communicators
- Some Venn diagrams (via a PDF on Slideshare, below) on how nonprofit communicators combine various marketing/fundraising goals. (Warning: This is pretty geeky stuff, but should be a good conversation starter about where you fit in).
Good luck with those discussions and let me know how they go!