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SMARTer marketing strategies through Connective Impact

By: Sam Stern

Collective Impact: You’ve heard that term before, describing what happens when organizations from different sectors agree to solve social problems together, using a common agenda to align their efforts and measure success.

Through our work with nonprofits, we’ve seen an opportunity to apply the principles of Collective Impact to the internal structure of organizations, resulting in greater impact. Typically, we’re hired to help organizations connect with external audiences. Over time, however, we noticed an interesting trend: Most of these organizations fail to make the internal connection between their donor development and communication departments.

The development team works to build relationships, matching donors with opportunities that make a difference in the world. Communications maintains a vision for branding and digital communications, and deploys them to better connect with people. Each team is focused on what they do best, but are they united in achieving the mission? Is everyone going in the same direction on the way to the same goal? In other words: Are communications activities tied directly to how the organization makes money, and is development making the best use of communication department resources?

In our experience, the answer is usually no.

Why silos are suboptimal
Many of the organizations we’ve interviewed lack a strategic planning process to tie donor development with communications, meaning there’s no coordinated effort to develop programs for attracting and retaining donors. This isn’t to say that these departments aren’t working hard or collaborating, but they tend to either operate independently, or place communications in a supporting role beneath development planning.

This leads to a second problem: duplication of efforts between departments, concerning not only database management but content development. When development uses one database to track their efforts, and communications uses another database to distribute their marketing materials, overlap is inevitable. Content efforts are often duplicated when communications is busy developing newsletters, press releases, social media posts, blogs, and other brand-focused materials, while development is producing its own direct-mail appeals, brochures, and email campaigns.

This duplication of time and resources limits the opportunity to collaborate in the creation of content that will help attract new prospects, convert prospects into donors, and nurture current donors along the digital moves management cycle.

Connective Impact to the rescue
“Connective Impact” works much the same as Collective Impact: It brings together diverse groups within your organization to help them achieve more together than they can alone.

Connective Impact happens when organizations align their donor development and communications efforts around three things:

  • Increasing the prospect base
  • Elevating the conversion of prospects to donors
  • Using new techniques and technologies to increase giving.

Connective Impact does this by using shared goals, strategies, and tactics to connect the people and functions involved in both departments; by introducing new communications techniques and methods into your organization’s existing operations and skill sets; and, most importantly, by connecting all communications efforts to donors’ wants and needs.

Developing shared goals
Is it easy to create Connective Impact? The short answer is no – it involves sorting through a number of concerns, cultural and logistical, as well as a significant time commitment. But planning out your connective impact roadmap is a relatively simple first step to introducing this new strategy towards organizational efficiency.

Why is a unified strategic plan so important? Because planning in silos keeps you from raising more money to support your mission. It’s really that simple: When a group is in sync, the work they do reinforces each function, as well as each person’s insight, talent, and work. Every participant, at every stage, can see how their part in your strategy resonates with their peers.

Creating shared goals is a crucial part of the process, making it a lot easier to take on strategic planning as a group (rather than planning for each department in isolation).

You can think through exactly where you want to go with the help of an acronym called SMART.  A SMART goal is:

  • Specific. It’s well-defined, so as to be clear to anyone with a basic knowledge of the project.
  • Measurable. It’s obtainable, it recognizes how far away you are from completing it, and it’s easy to determine when it has been achieved.
  • Agreed-upon. There is agreement among executive directors, development officers, and communications regarding what the goal should be.
  • Realistic. The goal can be reached within the constraints of available resources, knowledge, and time.
  • Time-based. You have enough time to achieve the goal – but not too much time, which might affect project performance.

Feel like your organization could be more efficient with its efforts? Take our brief organizational alignment assessment to learn more about your current conditions, and how Connective Impact can help.

Sam Stern is CEO of MagnifyGood, a full-service strategic communications firm serving the charitable sector.

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