Like Herding Cats

I can recall a few times in my nonprofit journey when coordinating a new marketing campaign across departments felt more like herding cats than orchestrating a symphony. Each team was on its own wavelength, doing its own thing, focused on their own mission-driven priorities.

This situation created silos and missed deadlines, hindering our progress. The initiatives and campaign didn’t take off when or in the ways they should’ve because we were a fleet moving in too many different directions. Sound familiar?

It made it clear how vital a focus on collaboration is, especially when we’re all trying to do a lot with a little in the nonprofit world. Clearly, we needed to bridge these gaps to move forward together.

Getting on the Same Page

In the nonprofit realm, communicators often juggle the tricky task of keeping everyone on the same page. Ever feel like you must’ve been playing a game of telephone at your org, where the message started in one place and ended up completely different at the end of the line?

That’s often the reality in our world, where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Marketing is crafting and promoting one message, while program teams are out in the field with another, and fundraising is on a different page altogether.

Things that get in the way include differing priorities, resistance to change, internal politics, and a lack of understanding of real marketing. These misalignments aren’t just confusing (and common); they can dilute our efforts and impact. We need to align our strategies, so we’re not just busy but actually productive and impactful.

Seven No-Fail Strategies for Smoother Teamwork

  1. Start with a Shared Vision.
    Rallying everyone around our mission is key. This alignment ensures we all move cohesively towards our goals.It helps everyone see the bigger picture and understand how each of you may be on different boats, but are all under the same banner.
  2. Focus on the ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me?).
    Show each team member what’s in it for them, and then be sure to link their success to the group’s goal. Talk about the win-wins and mutual gains.Showing the individual gains from collaboration boosts ownership and commitment. For instance, sharing with the programs team how increased marketing visibility can lead to more project funding and support.
  3. Foster Authentic Relationships.
    Understanding and empathizing with each other’s roles fosters stronger relationships.
    Regular informal catch-ups can transform your relationships across teams as well as the workplace atmosphere by fostering a more relaxed and open environment where people feel comfortable sharing ideas and challenges. All of this makes collaborations smoother, more transparent, and more fruitful. Move beyond the formal emails and meetings and get to really know the individual behind the other desk, their goals, and needs.
  4. Mix Work with Play.
    Incorporating fun activities and team-building exercises can enhance camaraderie and make collaborative efforts more enjoyable and successful. Consider things like celebratory gatherings after achieving milestones and how those can boost morale and strengthen team bonds. Remember the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”?
  5. Showcase Your Marketing Magic.
    Demonstrating the impact of marketing through clear examples helps other departments see its importance.Showcasing success stories, like how a strategic campaign led to a spike in donations, or how a social media campaign increased public awareness and engagement, can provide solid proof of the marketing’s contributions and value going forward.
  6. Establish Effective Systems and Processes.
    Implementing tools like shared calendars, communication platforms, and project management software can streamline collaboration, making the work more efficient and less prone to errors. These little things can be the secret sauce to reducing friction or miscommunication.
  7. Continuously Reflect and Adapt.
    Regularly checking what’s working (and what’s not) keeps the team agile and forward-moving. Take quarterly cross-team review meetings, for instance. They’re great for taking a pulse on how well our campaigns or communication strategies are doing. Plus, they help us spot areas we can collectively or individually improve on.

Let’s Make it Work

Time to get real about knitting our teams together. True collaboration is imperative for achieving our goals. We will need to start talking to each other (with empathy), not just at each other.

Syncing our calendars and systems, sharing successes and challenges, and truly listening – these are the steps that will transform our individual efforts into a collective force moving our missions forward.

Published On: April 10, 2024|Categories: Communications Team Management, Relationships, and Boundaries|