Can Marketers and Fundraisers Be Friends?

By Dan Kennedy, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development

Sometimes, marketing and fundraising feel at odds with each other or like disconnected parts within an organization. Perhaps you’ve had such an experience. We definitely have. But in an ideal setting, marketing and fundraising work hand-in-hand to accomplish the best for your mission. To unpack this further, we connected with Dan Kennedy, The FOCUS Group’s VP of Marketing and Business Development.

Q: Dan, you’ve spent the last 27 years doing marketing and branding, first at Procter & Gamble and then for nonprofits, including three years living and working in China. Why do you enjoy this kind of work?

Dan: Used well and with the right intention, marketing and branding can be a clear way to serve people. Often, they are individuals we don’t get to see face-to-face, but that doesn’t change that behind that email, that website, are real people with real needs. We get to deliver great experiences for our audiences and be compassionate communicators by helping people be seen and known on their terms.

Q: What do you mean by “compassionate communicator?”

Dan: Let me give you an example. Say you are a head of school and you belong to an association of other independent schools. Every week, you get five to ten emails from different people at the association sharing updates with you, asking you questions, and basically filling up your inbox with lots of “useful” information. That’s not compassionate communication! (And also a clear example of the difference between intent versus impact.) What if, instead, all the people who work for the association got together and prioritized the things they wanted to share with you, a very busy head of school? And they did it based on talking to you to really understand your context. So now, instead of five emails, they sent one carefully curated email that contained just a few things you needed, at just the right time, in a way that you could digest quickly and then move on with your day. Now, that is what it means to be a compassionate communicator. And that’s a true story of how we (at my former marketing agency) worked with one client to help them be more effective and compassionate in their marketing. 

Q: Can you share an example of how you’ve seen marketing and development work well together?

Dan: Absolutely. This literally just happened last week. I got to visit a ministry called International Cooperation Ministries (ICM) in Newport News, Virginia. They “partner globally with indigenous ministries to build churches and make disciples.” They have projects in 103 countries! I am still in the process of getting to know the team and their work, but two things stood out. First, their impact reporting was second to none. If you donate at a certain level, you are sent a physical binder called the Storybook, which gives background on projects you are a part of supporting, from information and pictures about construction projects to stories and stats on discipleship. Then, several times a year, they send you updates in the form of new pages to insert in your binder (you can even get tabs to separate different regions of the world!). It’s brilliant on so many levels. And it combines the best of development (reporting on the impact of giving) and marketing (creating meaningful experiences in an audience-compassionate way.)

The second thing that stood out to me at ICM is that the development and marketing teams are co-located. It seems simple, but with our collective shift to virtual work, there is something so valuable about being in the same physical space as we seek to serve the same audience.

Q: What tools or practices can help development and marketing teams work together effectively?

Dan: Two tools stand out. The principle that unites these tools is that they put the needs of our audience (often donors) front and center. They both force us to ask questions. They both require us to consider the experience of our donors to think about what their lives are like, what their needs and perspectives are, and what’s important to them.

The first tool is called an Audience Persona. It is really a snapshot of who a typical person might be in a specific segment. For example, we imagine their basic demographics (age, occupation), psychographics (what is important to them, their goals), challenges (problems they face), perceptions (what words they use to describe our organization), and so on.

The second is called a Journey Map. It takes the Persona exercise one step further and allows you to chart all the interactions that one person has with your organization. This can help you see things that one team alone might miss–like the fact that one person might be receiving ten emails from your organization or that you are asking for donations every time you reach out instead of striking a healthy balance of offering value, thanking, and then also, occasionally, asking. These tools can help development and marketing teams see how they can work together towards the same goals instead of operating in silos.

Q: You’ve recently joined The FOCUS Group. What’s unique about this company?

Dan: The FOCUS Group is all about relational fundraising. I find a lot of resonance with that in the work I’ve done over the years. The best branding projects happen when we take time to really learn about our audience via research, and it’s the same thing with fundraising. The best conversation with donors happens when you’ve taken time to get to know them, and you can find meaningful ways to really connect. Marketing is no different; it just happens at scale instead of one-on-one with a donor. At The FOCUS Group, we say our culture is about Jesus, Relationships and Fun. Honestly, that’s a pretty amazing combination!

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