I was reading about donor retention on The Agitator when a provocative thought and idea was presented:

The fact is that research clearly shows that when it comes to improving Lifetime Value — the only true metric that matters — the tactics/techniques/frequency of activity from the fundraising department accounts for less than 20% of the ultimate value on a donor file.

Immediately, I knew this to be true. In fundraising, we think if we can just say the right thing to the right person at the right time then we’ll keep them and they’ll give again. And while we should always be trying to say the right thing to the right person at the right time the reality of what donors want and why they stick around is much bigger than that. It’s their overall experience with your organization. It’s the eNewsletters that they open (or not) and read (or not). It’s the picture on Facebook showing off your latest work. It’s the unexpected thank you video you make for your donors. It’s the story you tell about how the donor is making a difference. Those are the touch points that keep donors around, not your newest, shiniest direct mail piece that landing in their mail box at just the right time.

In short, it’s your marketing and communications that keeps donors, not your fundraising. Yes you have to ask people to give but you need to do all the other stuff to even get them ready to give. The divide between marketing, communications and fundraising is just one of the many divisions in the nonprofit sector that have had a damaging effect:

1. Separating “Overhead” costs (General & Administrative and Fundraising) from “Program” costs.

I won’t go into this at too much length as you can read a post about it here, watch a video about it here or send me an email and I’ll be happy to rant for a few paragraphs.

2. Separating fundraising departments/teams from marketing departments/teams.

Fundraising and marketing have always worked hand in hand as one does the asking and the other gives the tools they need to do the asking. I won’t spend tons of time on this either but the crux lies in that fundraising traditionally cares about what will bring in the most money or donors NOW whereas a marketing approach takes into consideration what the donor/supporter wants and tailors communications and fundraising to them leading to more money and donors in the long term.

3. Separating online/social/digital marketing from the other marketing.

Closely related to the above, digital is what is central, core and accessible by everyone (well almost everyone). Your marketing has to be integrated but if you had to have a hierarchy then, in my opinion, your digital team should come first and drive things and have the other teams and channels fall in line.

Marketing IS sales. It’s above sales. Marketing IS fundraising. It’s above fundraising. When we split out marketing and fundraising we are hurting ourselves. And when we put fundraising ABOVE marketing, we are dooming ourselves.