We’ll only excel if we evangelise

A few weeks ago a stranger told me something that made me feel truly sad for an entire afternoon.

I was at a charity marketing seminar. Presentation topics were things like: how to meaningfully calculate lifetime value, how to manage your brand’s reputation using social media, and web design that can heighten the supporter experience.

In usual fashion, feedback forms were passed around at the end. The woman sitting next to me (completely unselfconsciously) said: “There was too much stuff about fundraising for me – I’m in marketing, I don’t need to know about fundraising.”

As the sentiment behind what she said fully sank in, I could feel my mood deflating like a soggy old balloon from yesterday’s party.

“I’m in marketing so I don’t need to know about fundraising.”

Now I know that the lines between fundraising/marketing/communications/brand are drawn differently between teams and roles in every non-profit. But the notion that someone who saw herself as a marketer didn’t think she needed to know ANYTHING about fundraising astounded me.

I’m not a PR or communications guru but I listened to the presentation about reputation and social media with interest, because it shone a light on how my colleagues work – and also sparked ideas on how we could better collaborate, be more joined up.

In my relatively short time as a fundraiser I’ve worked at organisations where marketing/communications was seen as more important, they should have the final say. There was no need for the marketers to attempt to understand fundraising because brand trumps everything. Fundraisers were the petulant child because sometimes we wanted to break away from core brand and tailor work to our different audiences.

I’ve also worked at organisations where marketing/brand and fundraising existed in a culture that supports and encourages the fact that the twain are inextricably linked. A thread of asking for more support (properly) was woven into everything we did.

You can guess which had a clearer sense of vision, and a more agile approach to raising profile & funds in equal measure.

And the buck doesn’t need to stop with marketing either. Operational delivery or support services should all understand their role in communicating need and impact to the people they encounter too. They’re the ones on the front line who have the authority of voice that comes with delivering a charity’s mission.

I know that I’m preaching to the converted here. By engaging with 101 you’ve shown that you want to be a great fundraiser, a driver of change, a rejecter of the parts of status quo that can stop us from truly connecting with our donors.

I’m not the only one to have banged this drum either. Alan Clayton spoke passionately about it at the UK IFC earlier this year. He argued that the most successful non-profits are those where everyone sees themselves as a fundraiser.

My challenge to you is to not just to believe it, but to preach it. Be an evangelist. Help every one of your colleagues understand that they need to know how to sell your organisation’s vision in a meaningful way to anyone they meet. There are easy things you can do; invite yourself to another team’s catch up meeting to share what you’ve been up to. Hold a lunchtime Q&A session. Start a blog on the intranet.

I’m sure we can all think of times in our careers when a colleague (or ourselves!) have been congratulated for unlocking a lucrative new opportunity through a ‘chance’ meeting, email, tweet even. But it’s also about the day to day – about how every communication we have with our supporter persuades, excites and asks everyone to join in.

We’ll only help our organisations go from good to great if we evangelise.

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