Integrated direct response fundraising has long been the pursuit of forward-thinking membership and development directors. But integration remains an ongoing challenge for most organizations – almost always for the same two reasons regardless of an organization’s size, funding, or mission. The channels like to change and organizations … don’t.
Still, some organizations are much further down the path than others when it comes to un-siloing their programs. What is it about them? What are they doing differently? And are you one of them?
Consider these five questions – and characteristics of nonprofits with great integrated programs – to see how you rate:
1. Is your organization web-minded? When we talk about integration, for the most part we’re talking about direct mail-dominated programs figuring out how to communicate online. In this sense, the integration discussion today is really about established organizations adapting to the times. And so it’s no surprise that the organizations that tend to be more integrated also tend to be more “webby.” Their dynamic websites, email communications and social media presence are an integral part of their overall membership development mix.
2. Is your organization marketing and communications-minded? Organizations that are good at integration are media explorers – inherently open, flexible and opportunistic – because getting the message across is what matters the most. That means they’re pragmatic risk-takers and they’re ok with occasionally failing at something new. At last week’s New York DMFA luncheon, Paull Young, digital director at charity: water summed it up with this awesome advice: “Do it wrong quickly.”
3. Is your organization nimble? Seriously. Multichannel integration demands a streamlined decision-making and approval process. Organizations with well-integrated fundraising and communications programs are able to get online, on the phones, and in the mail just about as fast as they can develop and implement their creative and strategy. That’s because they aren’t held back by unwieldy approval protocols and departmental territorialism. They’re nimble. N.B.: the bigger the organization is, the harder this becomes. But big organizations with well-integrated programs know this, and they work on it.
4. Do your Development, Program, Marketing and Communications departments connect regularly, collaborate and coordinate? See #3.
5. Does your organization value and foster originality? There’s no absolute formula for channel integration, and what works one season may not the next. So having a well-integrated direct response program means being comfortable without a playbook and, better yet, enjoying writing and rewriting your own. It also means continually figuring out new ways of combining media, measuring results, wrangling production and technology, and creating pathways to engagement.
So how does your organization rate on the integration scale?
If you answered “yes” to 3-4 of the above then you’re doing great! Be sure to share your experiences with other organizations that could benefit from your advice and could even use it to overcome internal obstacles to integration that they may be facing.
If you answered “yes” to 2 of the above, you’re on your way. For most organizations integration requires a significant culture shift, and that takes time. Continue to involve your whole organization in your program’s evolution, share your successes with all departments, and keep building on your progress.
If you answered “yes” to 1 or 0. You have some work to do, but the good news is there’s a wealth of information available from nonprofits that have tackled and overcome all kinds of integration challenges. In fact, the best national conference on integrated fundraising – the Bridge Conference in Washington DC – is coming up this summer from August 7-9. It’s a great place to get new ideas for channel integration, meet other nonprofits and hear valuable case studies. If you can, I hope you’ll stop by my session on integrated communications (8:15 sharp Wednesday) with Chris Helfrich of the Nothing But Nets campaign of the United Nations Foundation and Dennis Lonergan of Eidolon Communications.
And if you answered “yes” to all 5 of the above then I’m pretty sure you’re a fictional organization … but I can’t wait to meet you in a few more years!