As any Executive Director or Development Director in a small nonprofit knows, it’s hard to find budget to do some of the things you know you need to do. Integrated fundraising is one of those things. Even the name — Integrated Fundraising — sounds expensive. Sounds like something you need a 20 person department and a $1 million budget to launch. Right?
It doesn’t have to be. A few days ago I shared some thoughts on this topic with a friend. He asked what an organization with just a few thousand donors could do to get started on the path to integrated fundraising, without spending down everything they have in reserves. These common sense tips can help you build an integrated fundraising program without spending a ton of extra money (hint: these work for large nonprofits too).
1. Secure organizational buy-in for what may be a shift in strategy. You need senior leadership and board members to understand the changing landscape, and the opportunity cost of not making a change. You also need middle management and your junior staff to understand it, and to feel ownership in the changes this shift might bring about for the organization.
2. Align your internal resources. If direct mail, marketing, major gifts, web, etc., are all different departments (under different leadership) within your organization, it will make integration more difficult (not impossible, just more difficult). Do what you can to bring these silos under one cohesive leadership structure. If that’s not possible, convene an ongoing working group that crosses all necessary departments. Task this group with building that integrated infrastructure on behalf of your entire organization. Then empower them to get the work done.
3. Plan early for integration. Don’t try to integrate after you’ve created all of your campaigns for the year. Build your annual marketing/fundraising calendar with integration in mind. Look for natural ways to align timing and messaging across multiple channels.
4. Leverage what you already have. If you’ve got a direct mail program, an e-mail program, a newsletter, website and other marketing efforts (i.e., radio, TV PSA’s, etc.), don’t let those work independent of one another. Early on, simply coordinating the timing of your various efforts can create lift. But you’ll create much greater impact by going a step further and coordinating both timing of your efforts and messaging.
5. Invest in building a best practice e-commerce website that is engaging, easy to navigate, and helps donors and potential donors quickly/easily figure out what it is you want them to do (i.e., give, volunteer, learn more).
6. Start testing new channels. If you’re only in the mail, begin capturing e-mail addresses and testing e-mail campaigns coordinated with your direct mail. If you’re already doing mail and e-mail, test some SEM campaigns. After that, test online display ads (banners). Depending on budget and your media market, it might also make sense to consider radio, etc.