Stones Aligned

How is your job aligned within your organization?

Last week, I shared a theory of change for nonprofit marketing, connecting your tactical communications work to your nonprofit’s larger mission. While that’s helpful, you still need to get much more specific about your annual goals.

If you are working on your plan for 2013 and aren’t sure where to start, I suggest that you first look at how your job is aligned within your organization. Some nonprofit communications departments serve the fundraising department. Some serve the program departments. Some are completely separate from both. Some lead the decisionmaking about how the nonprofit communicates with the outside world, and some follow the lead set by program or fundraising staff. Some act as internal marketing or PR agencies that offer strong advice, but ultimately do not make final decisions.

In my informal polls during webinars and conversations with nonprofit marketing staff, it seems like about 10 percent say their goals are closely aligned with programmatic goals, 15 percent say they are setting their own marketing goals, 25 percent say they are closely aligned with fundraising, and half are doing a combination of the three. If you fall in this last group, those who say they are doing it all, you have the most to gain by narrowing your goals.

Where you are on this spectrum will determine your specific objectives for the coming year. If you are very closely aligned with your fundraising, development, or advancement department, then your objectives will be closely aligned with more traditional fundraising goals.

You may be concerned with

  • Acquiring new donors
  • Retaining current donors
  • Increasing levels of giving, either how often or how much
  • Securing funding new programs
  • Encouraging peer-to-peer or social media fundraising

If you are more closely aligned with the program side, your objectives should be more aligned with programmatic results, like

  • Getting more program participants or volunteers
  • Diversifying program participants or volunteers (by age, skills, geography or some other factor)
  • Getting people to register for or attend events
  • Collecting and analyzing feedback from program participants or supporters
  • Educating people on specific issues

In either case, if you are closely aligned with another part of your organization, you shouldn’t be setting your own objectives and deciding how you will measure your success on your own. These conversations must be held in concert with those staff.

If you operate more independently or across the entire organization, you may be interested in a different set of goals and objectives, which both directly and indirectly help fundraising and program staff:

  • Engagement of participants and supporters
  • Increasing website traffic, including search engine optimization
  • Building direct mail, email, and social media lists
  • Improving awareness or perceptions of the organization
  • Positioning the organization as a thought leader or expert
  • Getting reporters to view your organization as a reliable source

All of these objectives, in all three lists, are worthwhile for nonprofit communicators, but they are nearly impossible for a small communications department to do all at once. That’s why it’s so important to be clear about your priority goals before you develop your detailed communications strategy for the year.

Where is your job aligned within your organization, and how is that affecting your goals for 2013?

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