nonprofit marketing planYour Nonprofit Marketing Plan: How Fundraising, Marcoms & Volunteer Services Can Work Together  

When it comes to strategizing a nonprofit marketing plan, it’s the exception rather than the rule that the development department, the communications department, and volunteer services all work together in harmony.  Or, even put a joint plan in place for that matter. 

It’s beyond time to break down those silos. 

In today’s noisy, distracted world, it’s harder than ever to capture and hold the attention of nonprofit supporters.   

So, now more than ever organizations must work together to present well-crafted, unified messages that resonate and help supporters find their right place in your menu of opportunities to get involved. 

So, what would it look like of teams responsible for communicating and interacting with the public working in sync? I this blog post I share some of ideas for mutual support and benefit and a quick-and-dirty marketing framework that can help get the conversation started. 

Nonprofit Marketing Plan Goals by Department 

At first glance you might think that the goals of each department are at odds with one another. They may even be considered competitors for scarce resources. 

But this is limited thinking.   

Imagine how the goals of each department can build on one another and could support one another.  

Imagine the time savings if original marketing and communications content could be written by one department, re-purposed by another, and tweaked for different audiences.   

Imagine the cost savings if software platforms were shared. 

Imagine the affect the synchronized of messaging and asks across donor and volunteer segments (by the way, they are often one in the same people). Imagine sending the right message at the right time to the right person versus carpet bombing your email list. 

How would these changes impact the sustainability of your organization? 

To be clear, internal partnerships do take more time to set up, at least initially. But there are so many reasons to do it and ways it can pay off for all parties in time and money saved. Plus, it may help get you better results. 

Here are just a few examples of mutually beneficial, across departmental collaborations: 

  • Volunteers trained to consistently use the talking points developed by the marketing department 
  • Marketing staff amplifying volunteer recruitment appeals and social media posts created by volunteer services 
  • Volunteer department staff collaborating with development staff to launch a segmented annual appeal, with a campaign specifically focused on volunteer giving 
  • Collaboration on public relations around National Volunteer Week to raise awareness of the cause, its results, and the multiple ways to get involved 
  • Trained volunteers as “storytelling stringers” for the communications department 
  • Volunteer services taking the lead on volunteer staffing for special events with volunteers 
  • Training by the development department for volunteers on “making a soft ask” on behalf of the organization and acting as community ambassadors 
  • Development staff making appeals of enthusiastic individual donors to contribute volunteer time 

You get the gist.  There are hundreds of creative ways these department can work together. 

The goal for these internal partnerships is that they produce results for both all sides. Everyone must come out a winner. 

One of the first ways to understand the underlying goals, and primary challenges, of a fellow department is to start a conversation about marketing and to build a plan together. 

Quick-and-Dirty Nonprofit Marketing Plan 

quick marketing plan

The reality is that any fundraising, communications, and volunteer services departments are essentially departments of one.   

They are often juggling multiple priorities and just trying to get through the day. 

So, the kinds of thorough, purposeful, researched, and tested marketing strategies you read about are often out of reach.  

But there is an alternative. Teams can use the following streamlined approach to help you get traction in the quickest way possible. In just a few hours, they can have a workable plan drafted. 

The Quick-and-Dirty Nonprofit Marketing Plan in Four Steps 

Have each team member come to the meeting ready to share their insights on the following. Report out responses for each set of questions and then circle back to see where there are overlaps.   

Ask yourselves – Where is there duplication of effort? How can we realize a greater economy of scale? Who is best suited to take on each task in terms of tools, skills, and interest? 

  1. Who are we trying to reach? (Target Audience)
  • Which stakeholders? 
  • Which personas? 
  1. What’s our message to them? (Key Messages and Calls to Action)
  • What do we want them to do? 
  • Why do we want them to do it? 
  • Why should they care? 
  1. What’s the best way to deliver thatmessage?(Trusted Messengers and Channels) 
  • What are the right channels for our specific audience(s)? 
  • Who are trusted messengers (e.g., volunteers, board members, etc.)? 
  1. How do we know it’s working? (Evaluation and Improvement
  • How will we schedule & keep track of our campaign tasks? 
  • How will we assess, adjust, & optimize our strategy & tactics? 

Once you have a good general nonprofit marketing plan in place that satisfied the needs of all parties, you can start to schedule out the details.   

You might find that you’re plans are ambitious and exciting.  You may also feel they are overwhelming.   

Now is a wonderful time to also talk about how to get volunteers involved to help breathe life into your plan and give it a fighting chance. 

Tips for Better Coordination of Nonprofit Marketing Plans 

coordinate your nonprofit marketing plan

Below are some additional tips for planning and implementing a successful strategy. 

  • Set Up a Meeting to Discuss Mutual Goals and Aims Each Year 

It’s important that you understand what your colleagues are working towards so that you can actively support them and they you.  Check out tips on building internal allies that matter and get a sample first meeting agenda in this VolunteerPro blog post.

Make sure you understand the key performance metrics for each department, as well as the cadence of key events that occur each year. By developing a unified calendar, you’ll be able to identify any overlap and prevent communicating at cross purposes (e.g., inviting volunteers to a recognition luncheon and sending them a funding appeal both in the same week … ouch!).  Yu might also find that there are ways to promote both contributions of time and treasure at the same event, getting double the mileage. 

  • Co-create a Monthly Editorial Calendar 

Set publication dates and topics for social media posts, blog and newsletter articles, fundraising and volunteer appeals and campaigns, special events, free content, annual reports, key calls to action and anything else you publish. Indicate who owns the content and its current status. Project management tools like Asana or Airtable make these easy to set up and track 

  • Hold Regular Editorial Meetings 

Quarterly meetings work well to plan out your next campaign of tasks and projects outlined on your larger annual plan.  Meet monthly to plan out actual content, topics, and themes and who will do what by when. 

  • Develop a Unified Style Guide and Talking Points 

Rather than going back and forth to get clarity, set up a central repository with graphics as well as a Brand Style Guide that everyone can use to keep consistent.  Sharing key talking points on a shared doc will help teams revisit what the agency is trying to communicate at the highest level during any given period of time.  

In short, the more consistent, the better chance a message has to land and be acted upon. You can also create templates for slide decks, fliers, rack cards, etc. That everyone uses to maintain a consistent look and feel no matter who creates the original. 

Nonprofit marketing planning can feel overwhelming and onerous, to say the least.  But it doesn’t have to be.   

By working together across departments, staff can save time and money by teaming up and sharing resources.  They might even find their marketing gets better to boot.