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Why Nonprofit Development and Marketing Teams Need Each Other

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Published November 1, 2023 Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nonprofit development and marketing teams share similar organizational goals. Each wants to attract and retain donors to fuel their nonprofit organization’s mission. However, the methods these teams use often differ. Nonprofit leaders can help these departments find common ground to enhance social impact.

To increase coordination, it’s critical to understand what makes each team unique. Below, we’ll cover what nonprofit development is, how it differs from marketing, and the benefits nonprofits receive when the two teams partner. To help your teams get started, we’ll also share four specific actions staff can take to form and strengthen cross-department initiatives.

What Is Nonprofit Development?

Nonprofit development teams are typically responsible for setting financial goals for a nonprofit and securing funders to meet those needs. In the nonprofit sector, this can include various channels, such as grant writing, direct appeals, peer-to-peer fundraising, and event planning.

A nonprofit’s executive director and board members often oversee the nonprofit development team’s tasks and may support specific initiatives, like referring prospective donors for major gift cultivation. In general, nonprofit development is about cultivating key relationships for fundraising.

How Is Nonprofit Development Different from Marketing?

Marketing teams work to broaden brand awareness for nonprofits, which helps deepen public trust in nonprofits’ work, engage new audiences, and maintain current supporters’ interest. Through social media and other marketing channels, these nonprofit professionals make supporters aware of special events and current fundraising efforts.

As nonprofits’ frontline, marketing teams are storytellers. They create and share compelling stories about a nonprofit’s work to pique supporters’ interest, then funnel these new relationships to development team members for further stewardship. Additionally, they support retention efforts by offering donor stewardship touchpoints in between contacts from the development team.

Ultimately, marketing teams focus on initiating relationships between supporters and your brand, while nonprofit development teams secure donor investments from those relationships. The two teams complement each other’s roles.

What Are the Benefits of Nonprofit Development and Marketing Teams Working Together?

Given their related goals, nonprofit development and marketing team members can benefit from increased coordination. By working together, each team learns about the others’ skills and how to apply those to their projects, creating hands-on professional development opportunities.

In terms of nonprofit financial management, coordination can lead to cost savings through greater efficiency. When staff from both departments join the same meetings and streamline information-sharing, initiatives require less time and fewer resources to complete. Additionally, nonprofit development and marketing teams can improve nonprofit management through sharing insights on programs and services that resonate most with supporters or receive the most questions.

Finally, when nonprofit development and marketing teams collaborate, fundraising campaigns benefit from diverse perspectives. This helps with building relationships across different donor cohorts, like Gen Z donors, and working with a range of stakeholders.

4 Ways Nonprofit Development and Marketing Teams Can Collaborate

While there are many ways your nonprofit development and marketing teams can collaborate, these four steps serve as a strong foundation for forming a partnership that lasts.

1. Analyze Supporter Data

Nonprofit development and marketing teams each have critical insights on donors. Together, they have a detailed picture of their target audiences to inform an effective fundraising strategy.

Marketing staff can alert nonprofit development team members about the types of content supporters engage with most, shedding light on how donors navigate to your donation website or fundraising events. Additionally, they can share which nonprofit stories engage the most supporters. The nonprofit development team can then incorporate similar concepts into its stewardship activities.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit development team can share its prospect research with the marketing team to educate them on the types of donors the organization wants to target. Marketing teams can then implement new communications strategies to reach these prospective donors based on those conversations. Nonprofit development staff can also provide data on average donation sizes so the marketing team can tailor its request amounts to meet donors where they are.

2. Coordinate Campaigns

Many of the donor stewardship activities that nonprofit development professionals organize require marketing support. By cocreating an annual fundraising campaign and content calendar, nonprofit development and marketing teams can set shared goals and establish complementary staff roles and responsibilities to achieve them.

For example, the year’s development plan may include two large fundraising events. Part of the strategic planning for those events will likely require securing corporate sponsorships to cover event costs. By mapping out the events on a coordinated calendar, marketing teams will have enough lead time to identify and confirm corporate partnerships to support the campaigns, motivate attendees to join, and create promotional materials to elevate the event across multiple platforms.

3. Share Language and Materials

Both nonprofit development departments and marketing teams write copy, pull data, and select photos to tell their nonprofit’s story to donors. By sharing these materials, the teams can create more cohesive messaging and expand the reach of their most powerful marketing collateral.

Make it easy to review materials by setting up shared folders between the two departments for recent case studies, grant proposals, direct mail appeals, webinars, and other relevant items. As part of your planning process for messaging consistency, host an annual meeting where the two teams update materials. Discuss any changes to your nonprofit branding guidelines, color palette, taglines, or other brand and messaging topics to ensure staff are aligned.

4. Communicate Wins and Pain Points

As nonprofit development and marketing teams begin to work together, follow up to get a pulse on the collaboration. Development officers and marketing leaders can share what works and where changes are necessary. For example, a monthly meeting ensures frequent exchanges to make adjustments if challenges arise. This open, ongoing communication helps refine development strategies and leads to more powerful storytelling to recruit and retain donors.

Read Next: Storytelling in the New Era of Giving

Nonprofit Development and Marketing Teams Make Each Other Better

Nonprofit development and marketing teams play crucial roles in growing an organization’s donor base. The former focuses on cultivating direct donor relationships and securing additional funding sources from corporations or grants for nonprofits. Meanwhile, the latter uses storytelling and platforms like social media to communicate a nonprofit’s brand image.

While their day-to-day functions differ, the two departments can find common ground in their goals and support an overall increase in nonprofit growth. Find ways to support the two teams in your nonprofit by sharing materials and coordinating campaigns for greater efficiency and more consistent messaging.

Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien

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