Imagine you are a fundraiser going into a meeting with marketing and they have a BIG IDEA. It’s a good one.

And then they say, “You can fundraise with this, right?”

This is definitely not what we would call integration of marketing and fundraising.

But it’s what often happens. Sometimes trying to get marketing and fundraising to work together is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

If your marketing colleagues have been working on a big awareness campaign for the year-end time period, and they come up with a great big idea, wouldn’t it be ideal for your donors and prospective donors if your fundraising efforts could reflect that same big idea?

We think yes. But how often do we have to alter fundraising communications and strategy – and perhaps even dilute them – in order to make it work?

The answer, unfortunately, is too often.

It doesn’t mean that integration doesn’t work between marketing and fundraising. It just means we aren’t making it work.

Integration defined

The guidebook “One Voice – A Best Practice Guide to integrated communications” published by CharityComms, defines integration in the following way:

The concept of making all methods of marketing – advertising, direct marketing, public relations, digital engagement, etc. – work in unison across all aspects of an organisation’s activities, rather than in isolation.”

What’s important in that definition? Making all methods of marketing work in unison, rather than in isolation.

Working together does not mean working in the same way. It does not mean the big idea has to be used verbatim in fundraising activities. It means they need to work in unison. They need to complement and work together in the channel they are in.

Why integrate?

There’s no question about it. So why would we – or wouldn’t we – integrate?

Paul Vanags, who is head of Oxfam’s public fundraising, wrote in his Sept.19, 2017 Critical Fundraising blog, “[Integration is] a strategic choice.”

There’s no question about it. So why would we – or wouldn’t we – integrate?

Who should be at the centre of charities’ communications whether awareness or fundraising-focused?

Answer: the donor

Donor-focused integration means that all communications engage and inspire donors – or prospective donors – are part of the story. That means it has to be a story with a consistent message, problem, solution, offer, and emotion that connects with the donor.

When we think about integration, we have to think about the audience. The people we are connecting with or reaching through our communications.

If a donor sees the same kind of message across various channels a number of times, it has a psychological effect on them, and their chance of responding is significantly higher.

That is good integration.

What does integration NOT mean?

Integration does not mean that every communication has the exact same message.

If you try to find one single message that will speak to all forms of communication, all channels, and all audiences, you are likely to find what Paul Vanags called “lowest common denominators” in his blog.

We couldn’t agree more. But that’s the result of thoughtless and lazy integration, not integration in and of itself.

Integration isn’t about the exact same creative or the exact same message. Instead it is about unity between them. It’s about a connection between them. Paul Vanags talked about the “loss” that can happen from integration, for example: loss of meaning. This would be a huge loss, to be sure, but again – this is when integration is done wrong.

The reverse of that is your organization continually going out with different and disconnected messages. We see this happen all of the time and we believe there’s an even greater loss in that. It is also a waste of resources and opportunities.

Oil & water

We think the bigger problem than whether integration works (we know it does) is how marketing and fundraising usually work together. It’s like oil and water; they don’t mix.

Too often, marketing tells fundraising what to do.

Too often, fundraising doesn’t see their role in marketing, and vice versa.

Too often, marketers’ performance and fundraisers’ performance aren’t evaluated on outcomes that relate to one another, thereby silo-ing their departments.

Too often, these departments are already silo’ed. Their perceptions of one another aren’t reality. They don’t have relationships. They have tensions. They have frustrations. They have barriers. They lack empathy and understanding.

Sometimes it boils down to leadership. If leaders are doing their job right, they won’t suggest status quo or blindly following dogmas. They’ll encourage deeper, critical thinking, which often manifests in integration.

We think that leadership should encourage integration. When we bring our best thinking, skills, resources and people together – including budgets! Together we are positioned more strongly for success. Often supporting fundraising and the needs of the organization is the main job of marketing – other times there are other significant objectives around advocacy and awareness – regardless – there is strength in togetherness.

But it has to be from the beginning; fundraising cannot be an afterthought. Fundraising has to be part of the conversation from the get-go, so that all departments – marketing, fundraising, and beyond – can bring their unique lens to the task at hand: inspiring more awareness of – and motivating people to give to – your cause.

Case study

Are there examples of integration of marketing and fundraising done right? Absolutely – but not as often as we would like!

To illustrate, the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada was faced with two issues:

  1. Their brand had never been fully integrated and they had over 4 sub-brands that made their brand – and thereby their reason for being – incredibly unclear.
  2. As a result of the above, combined with other factors, Canadians didn’t fully realize the urgency of the cause and the tangible impact Heart & Stroke makes on healthcare.

They decided to address these big issues with a big undertaking, namely a full re-brand.

But Heart & Stroke didn’t do it in a silo. They didn’t have marketing and fundraising operating like oil and water. Instead, they worked together and were laser-focused on one thing: Inspiring Canadians to join Heart & Stroke by reappraising the brand and donating to the cause

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In that focus, marketing and fundraising are integrated, they’re on the same level.

As the Heart & Stroke Foundation on their re-brand journey, here are some of the things they did to address the two issues named above:

  • Determined their reason for being: Protecting life’s core (as in, the heart and brain).
  • Determined their external-facing purpose: Life. We don’t want you to miss it. (Read: the “big idea).
  • Created a bridge from their “why” to their “how”: Saving moments. Funding breakthroughs. Saving lives. (A.k.a. how they protect life’s core, how they ensure you don’t miss out on life, and what your money goes to).
  • Asked their existing donors what matters to them to ensure the donor is at the forefront of the re-brand (and not an afterthought).
  • Tested fundraising propositions in focus groups to see what would resonate.
  • Built journey maps that outlined the constituent experience, and clearly outlined where marketing and fundraising fit in along the way.
  • Brought the new brand to life through a monthly donor acquisition campaign; awareness of the cause wasn’t enough for real change, people needed to be able to take action.

Marketing and fundraising. Fundraising and marketing. They worked together.

And it did work. The re-brand was followed by a monthly acquisition campaign which was, again, a joint venture for marketing and fundraising.

This campaign acquired 500% more monthly donors than they did during the same time period the year previous.

They also garnered millions of media impressions and social interactions, thereby achieving their focus of Canadians reappraising the brand and donating to the cause.

That is what integration – done right – can do.

A Lesson in mixology

Integration isn’t easy. But it makes things easier for donors. It makes them more a part of your story. It makes them more aware of what you do. It makes them more aware of their part in it. It makes them more inspired. And it makes them more motivated to give.

So we encourage you to do the harder thing – take a course in mixology and integrate!

Stop being oil & water. Be a gin & tonic.

Maeve Strathy is Fundraising Strategist at Blakely, Inc.


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