Category Archives: teambuilding

Executive coaching is for non-profit leaders


fishbowlA few years ago, I wrote a post titled “Why are non-profits adverse to executive coaching?” after a conference where I couldn’t give away executive coaching services. With a few more years under my belt, things haven’t gotten any easier. In fact, I still find it challenging to sell executive coaching services to non-profit leaders. However, I’ve changed my mind since writing that last blog post about the reasons why this is the case.

After a heart-to-heart with a few non-profit friends, I’ve come to believe executive coaching is seen by some (and perhaps many) as a service for professionals who are failing. One person even compared it to counseling.

When put into this context, people who see coaching as a remedy for failure also see asking their board or their supervisor to pay for coaching as an admission of weakness or being unable to do their job.

The ironic thing here is that some of the for-profit sector’s greatest leaders have worked with executive coaches. It wasn’t because they were failing, but it was because they needed to maximize their performance.

Executive coaching is not like coaching in athletics. They don’t call the plays in from the sidelines. In fact, they don’t even tell you what to do. A good executive coach will ask powerful questions, facilitate discussions, help you with goal setting and be an accountability agent in your professional life.

Executive coaches are not therapists, but hiring one can have the impact of bringing greater work-life balance and fulfillment to your professional life.

The reality is that executive coaches are hired for any number of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • Help with succession planning
  • Developing young leaders
  • Improving performance / Maximizing performance
  • Serving as a thought-partner during important projects (e.g. strategic planning)
  • On-boarding new CEOs and key leaders (both staff and volunteer)
  • Surviving and thriving during executive search and transition

I could go on and on with this list, but the bottom line is that there are any number of projects and situation where non-profit organizations can benefit from executive coaching services.

Has your organization every hired an executive coach for staff or board volunteer? If not, then what is stopping you? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box.  We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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What should you do when a board member quits fundraising?


This certainly seems to be the topic of the month for non-profit people running in my circles. I’m not sure why this is the flavor of the month, but I’ve been asked this question so many times recently I took is as a sign from the universe (or the fundraising gods) that I should blog about it.

Why do board members quit on you?

quit1Oh, well let me count the reasons . . .

  1. They feel lost when it comes to asking for charitable contributions (aka lack of training)
  2. They feel uneasy about asking friends for money (aka they are asking inappropriately due to a lack of training which results in any number of FEARS and the feeling that they’re begging)
  3. They feel unsupported by staff (aka staff aren’t going out with them to help and model best practices)
  4. They sense there is a lack of organization behind their efforts (aka meetings are poorly attended or poorly organized, acknowledgement letters are sent late or sporadically, etc)
  5. Prospective donors are assigned to volunteers by staff without input from volunteers (aka they aren’t asking people with whom they are comfortable soliciting)
  6. They are busy people and there aren’t accountability tools being used by staff to keep everyone focused (e.g. report meetings, dashboards, scorecards, campaign reports, peer-to-peer phone calls)
  7. Fundraising efforts lack urgency (aka deadlines always seem to be extended, goals seem to shift/change, etc)
  8. They weren’t recruited appropriately and didn’t know what they were saying ‘YES’ to when joining the board (aka your board recruitment process lacks “expectation tools” like volunteer job descriptions, commitment pledges, etc)

I could go on and on and on with this list, but that wouldn’t be productive. Suffice it to say, if any of the aforementioned reasons describe your organization, you need to address it. Quickly! Otherwise, no matter how many new board members you recruit to replace the ones who quit on you, the problem will continue to recur.

All of this begs the question, “What can and should be done about board volunteers who quit on their fundraising responsibilities?

Step One: Have a heart-to-heart discussion

heart to heartI have no idea why this is so scary for so many non-profit staff and board volunteers. It doesn’t have to be a confrontation. Here are a few talking points:

  • Describe what you are observing (e.g. a reluctance to fundraise)
  • Assure them that it happens in the case of many board volunteers
  • Ask them what the trouble seems to be
  • Listen – Listen – Listen (empathize where appropriate)
  • Ask them how you can help
  • If there is nothing you can do to help, then ask them how they’d like to move forward

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it too many times. Board members disengage and no one asks them if everything is OK and if they are in need of assistance.

It is troublesome when non-profit families start acting this way, which is why Step One is always to sit down and listen.

Step Two: Engage in cultivation & stewardship

quit2If the reasons given by your board volunteer aren’t things beyond anyone’s control (e.g. family member illness, work-related challenges, etc) and they simply don’t feel comfortable with solicitation, then ask them to get heavily involved in cultivation (e.g. engaging new prospective supporters) and stewardship (e.g. showing existing donors gratitude and return on investment) activities. (Note: don’t simply let them focus on other non-fundraising activities like programming or marketing)

The following is a partial list of things you can ask of reluctant fundraising volunteers:

  • Host a house party with people who don’t currently support your organization (e.g. party where staff briefly talk about the organization and the host follows up with participants to see if they are interested in learning more)
  • Invite people who don’t currently give to your organization to tour your facilities and see the mission in action
  • Invite people who aren’t donors/supporters out for a cup of coffee and simply chat about the organization (e.g. it is important for the board volunteer to share reasons why they are involved and passionate about the organization)
  • Hand write letters to donors to express gratitude for their support
  • Make phone calls to donors in the middle of the organization’s range of gifts chart to express gratitude, engage in a discussion about their reasons for support, and share a piece of organizational good news
  • Invite larger major gifts donors/supporters out for a cup of coffee, share a copy of the most recent annual report, share any recent pieces of good news or programmatic results, and talk passionately about the future

I’m not suggesting you ask a reluctant fundraising volunteer to do one of two of these things. I am suggesting you immerse them in these activities. You might try asking them to complete five handwritten letters, five phone calls AND five in-person contacts every month for the next year.

Why?

In my experience, there is something curative when board members have substantive encounters with others that focus on community need, mission, vision, and impact.

I’ve seen a heavy dose of this approach help many volunteers get over their cold feet or malaise when it comes to fundraising.

Step Three: Finding a New Seat on the Bus

seat on busSometimes we can’t fix the problem. Board members are people, too. Their parents get sick. Their marriages falter. They end up with a new boss who demands more from them.

When these things happen, the first order of business is empathy. This is what you’d do for a family member going through the same thing. Right? And board members are your non-profit family.

But whatever you do, you cannot make exceptions for individual board volunteers with regards to their fiduciary responsibilities. It is an all or nothing proposition.

I’ve seen it too often where one board member is given a pass (usually for good reason). It’s a slippery slope. Others board members start identifying reasons in their life why they can’t participate in fundraising. Worse yet, a schism materializes in the boardroom between “those who fundraise” and “those who don’t.”  When this happens, resentment and ugliness aren’t far behind.

So, what does finding a new seat on the bus look like? It could be any number of things including (but not limited to):

  • Taking a short sabbatical from the board
  • Resigning from the board and moving into a new role (e.g. joining a committee, becoming a program volunteer, helping with small projects, remaining on as a donor, etc)
  • Acting as an advisor (e.g. monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly coffee meetings with the CEO or development director)
  • Becoming a community ambassador (e.g. speaking periodically at service clubs, etc)

We don’t banish or fire board members (unless of course it is a toxic/destructive situation). People who support our mission are valued and important. We keep them involved, but we do so in roles that are mutually beneficial and fulfilling.

How has your organization dealt with and addressed board members who quit fundraising (or maybe never really got started)? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Advice to my younger-fundraising-self about delegation and collaboration


blog carnivalThis month DonorDreams is hosting the nationally acclaimed Nonprofit Blog Carnival, and this month’s theme is: “If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?” As I’ve done each of the last three year’s when I’ve hosted the carnival, I plan on focusing this month’s DonorDreams blog posts on the topic as a way to help inspire other non-profit bloggers to submit posts for consideration. The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is scheduled to go live on Thursday, April 28, 2016. So, mark your calendars because you won’t want to miss what other non-profit bloggers have to say on this topic.

Today’s time machine post involves a younger me who learned valuable lessons about how not to delegate and collaborate with others. Enjoy!


I am embarrassed to admit how many times I made the same mistake before finally learning how to effectively delegate and collaborate. In the following two sections, I will share examples where my younger-fundraising-self goofed up. In the final section, I will share with you what I’d tell my younger-self if I could go back in time with a few pieces of advice.

Annual campaign management

is anyone out thereAs a young Boy Scout professional in the 1990s, I was just starting to learn may way around fundraising principles and best practices. While I previously had helped out with a few special events and written a grant proposal for another organization, I never helped plan-organize-implement an annual campaign pledge drive, which is what I was being asked to do with a group of Friends of Scouting (FOS) volunteer within my district.

With the help of the council’s Finance Director, I easily plowed through the early deadlines in my backdating plan. I nailed the pre-campaign tasks such as volunteer recruitment, setting FOS unit presentation dates, identifying community donor prospects, running pledge cards, goal setting, etc. I remember thinking early on how easy it all seemed.

And then the official “kickoff meeting” happened . . .

All of my volunteers gathered before work for an early morning meeting I sold as the “FOS Kickoff”. For slightly more than an hour over coffee and donuts, I walked my team of fundraising volunteers through training, review of materials, and even prospect assignment exercises. Everyone walked away from that meeting knowing the who, what, where, when and why.

Or so I thought.

Four weeks after the kickoff, nothing was happening. The signed pledge cards weren’t coming back to me with pledge amounts. Six weeks passed . . . still nothing was occurring and no one was returning my phone calls. Finally, I started panicking at the eight week mark because there was only one month remaining before the end of the campaign. It didn’t look like we’d come anywhere close to hitting our overall goal.

What I didn’t understand was that while I might have delegated all of those fundraising solicitations to volunteers, I still owned all of those tasks even though someone else had agreed to do them.

Grant reporting

deadlineFast forward a number of years into the future when I was a first-time executive director for a Boys & Girls Club.

After the resource development director, who I had inherited from the previous CEO, had resigned, I hired a replacement who had good pledge drive and event planning skills. Unfortunately, he lacked grant writing experience. I quickly concluded that I was the organization’s best writer, and I took over grant writing responsibilities.

As a former newspaper editor in a previous life, I knew how to write and took to grant writing like a baby duck takes to water. In short order, I fell into the routine of “research, cultivate, write” (aka rinse, later, repeat). And when we received funding, I turned everything over to one of my direct reports who was responsible for operations.

Whenever I handed over a grant, I always sat down with the operations director and reviewed the grant deliverables. I clearly explained what needed to be done (e.g. hiring, program planning, scheduling, kid recruiting, program promotion, outcomes measurement, etc). I also shared reporting deadlines from the funding partner.

As with the aforementioned annual campaign story, I walked away from those meetings knowing the who, what, where, when and why were as clear as possible. Everyone knew what needed to happen and by when.

Or so I thought.

I’ll never forget the first time a funder called me asking where our close-out report was and why we had missed the last few quarterly deadlines.

Even though it had been a few years between the lesson I had learned with my annual campaign volunteers and the staff supervision story pertaining to grant management and reporting, I still had obviously not learned the simple truism that delegating action items doesn’t mean I’m allowed to wash my hands of them.

Where is that time machine when you really need it?

delorean time machineSometimes when I daydream, I see myself standing outside my house in the street with Dr. Emmitt Brown (aka Christopher Lloyd’s character in Back to the Future), waiting for the lighting storm so I can jump into that DeLorean Time Machine. I know exactly where in the past I would first point myself.

It would be either immediately before my first FOS annual campaign kickoff meeting. Or it would be right before one of the staff meetings when I handed off grant materials to the operations director. <sigh>

I also know exactly what I’d say to my younger-fundraising-self if I had the opportunity:

  • Never remove deadlines from your calendar even though you might delegated reporting to others
  • Use your Microsoft Outlook task list and set future reminders to yourself about checking-in with employees who were tasked with reporting
  • Include campaign goal amounts + deadlines + meeting dates/times in the campaign volunteer description to help set expectations during the recruitment process in order to help volunteers determine whether or not they are able to do what you’re asking them to do
  • Schedule in-person “report meetings” every few weeks throughout the annual campaign where volunteers are asked to share their progress (or lack thereof) with each other
  • Email campaign reports illustrating how the overall campaign is performing as well as how individuals are doing compared to each other

<Sigh> If I only knew then what I know now.  😉


If you are a non-profit blogger who wants to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and submit a post for consideration on this month’s carnival theme, click here to read the “call for submissions” post I published last week. It should answer all of your questions and clearly explain how to submit your entry. If not, then simply email me and I’ll be happy to help.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 as an assessment tool for growth and team building


EQ1As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been on an assessment binge as of late that is leading up to some work around visioning, goal setting, and strategy and tactics development. The assessment work has been both personal and business related. You can read more about my motivations and thoughts in a post I published last week titled “New year starts with a little assessment work“.

A few days ago I confessed to struggling with the personal assessment side of this exercise until I purchased two books:

My last post — “StandOut 2.0 as an assessment tool for growth, team building and direction setting” — I talked all about:

  • the nine strength roles identified by Marcus Buckingham
  • the assessment tool that helped me identify my top two strengths
  • the importance of focusing on and leveraging your top two strengths
  • how to use this tool to assist with questions related to organizational development and team building

In this post, I’m focusing on my second book purchase — “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” — and what I’m learning and why I think it is relevant to your work.

EQ2Some of you might be wondering, “What is the world is emotional intelligence?” and the answer is somewhat complex because it involves brain science.

Here is how Google explains it:

the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

Here is what the authors of the book say:

The communication between your emotional and rational ‘brains’ is the physical source of emotional intelligence.

If you are a science-geek, then I encourage you to read the book where you can learn more about your spinal cord, limbic system and frontal lobe. In all honesty, it really is fascinating stuff.

I chose to incorporate the idea of emotional intelligence (EQ) into my New Years personal and professional assessment exercise in addition to the strength roles evaluation work found in the StandOut 2.o book because experts are learning it plays a large role in our professional life and our successes. Don’t believe me? Here are a few factoid that I’m quoting from the book:

  • EQ is so critical to success that it accounts for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs.
  • The link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary.

What I’m banking on is that I can grow my non-profit practice, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC, by improving my EQ and aligning my work better with my strengths.  I suspect you can do the same thing when it comes to your non-profit organization.

Back to the book . . .

There are four emotional intelligence skills, and they pair up as follows:

eq5

The book does far more explaining of these skills that I simply can’t and won’t get into today. I encourage you to purchase and read the book if this subject interests you.

What I will say for the purposes of this blog post is there is an online EQ assessment that people who purchase the book can access. It scores you in each of these four EQ skills areas and produces exercises designed to help you improve your EQ scores.

Unlike your IQ, which is not something you can change, your EQ can be developed and improved.

I was debating whether or not to share my scores with the blogosphere, and I decided not to. Needless to say, assessment is a humbling experience and my scores are a little lower that I would like. However, I will share that my assessment results convinced me to start working on my “listening skills” (which is social awareness strategy #11 spelled out on pages 160-161).

After I get this habit established, I will probably add an “empathy” exercise into the mix where I’ll try to pay attention to other people’s feelings more.

So, you are probably wondering how this assessment tool might benefit you and your organization. Here are a few thoughts:

  • If you are sometimes concerned that you don’t have a good handle on where you team is at or what it is feeling, then you might want to assess and work on your EQ
  • If a member of your team likes to push other teammates’ buttons, then incorporating a few self-management exercises into that person’s individual development plan (IDP) might make sense
  • If a member of your team is someone who constantly “speaks their mind” and everyone else reacts poorly, then you may need to help them develop their social awareness skills (additionally, you may need to teach the team to speak directly to this teammate’s feelings and not just what they are saying)

In short, improving your EQ could:

  • make you a more effective and productive person in the workplace
  • help you become a better coach to your team

Have you used this tool or others like it? If so, please scroll down to the comment box and share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

StandOut 2.0 as an assessment tool for growth, team building and direction setting


standout bookAs I said in my last post titled “New year starts with a little assessment work,” I’m beginning the new year by gifting myself 12 weeks of assessment. By assessment, I am looking closely at both personal issues (e.g. strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, etc.) and business issues (e.g. productivity, profitability, travel habits, types of contracts that bring me joy/fulfillment, etc). All of this will lead to planning exercises including direction setting/visioning, goal setting, strategies and tactics.

In my last post, I confessed to experiencing difficulty with the personal assessment side of my journey until I ran across two books — StandOut 2.0 and Emotional Intelligence 2.0 — at an O’Hare airport bookstore. Today’s post will focus on the first book, StandOut 2.0 written by Marcus Buckingham, and what I’ve learned as well as how I think non-profit leaders might be able to apply this tool.

This tool is rooted in the the principles of positive psychology and appreciative inquiry, which are fields that have been growing like a weed over the last few decades. You may recognize this author and this approach because Marcus Buckingham introduced the StrengthsFinder assessment in his book titled Now, Discover Your Strengths.

The entire book is based on one simple premise. If you want to excel and get the most out of your team, then you have to focus on maximizing your strengths. Working on shoring up your weaknesses is nice, but it won’t put you in a sweet spot when it comes to productivity, quality, and fulfillment.

There are nine “strength roles” identified in this assessment approach:

  • Advisor
  • Connector
  • Creator
  • Equalizer
  • Influencer
  • Pioneer
  • Provider
  • Stimulator
  • Teacher

In the last week, I have read the book, taken an assessment, and set-up my online work space where I receive weekly tips and set personal goals. It hasn’t felt like a “heavy lift” or hard work.

After taking the assessment, you receive a personalized report ranking your strength roles. Your top two strengths become the focus of your work. The following are my top two strength roles and their descriptions:

  • Advisor: “You are a practical, concrete thinker who is at your most powerful when reacting to and solving other people’s problems.
  • Connector: “You are a catalyst. Your power lies in your craving to bring two people or ideas together to make something bigger and better than it is now.

It is this combination of strengths that makes me unique, and according to Buckingham I will benefit from:

  • honing these strengths
  • aligning my work and career path with these strengths
  • building my team around these strengths
  • learning how to leverage these strengths in the areas of client services and sales

Buckingham walks readers through “Three lessons for building your strengths” in chapter three of the book. I finished that chapter thinking his advice was wise and something worth investing my time.

I really like the online work space that comes with this toolbox, including the ability to link other members of your team into the site.

StandOut 2.0 was an exciting discovery for me. I didn’t waste time figuring out ways to incorporate it into my life. Within a few days, I asked one of my executive coaching clients to purchase the book and take the online assessment. We integrated the results into our next session and plan on using it to frame their job search process.

On a personal note, the assessment provided me tons of “food for thought” for my consulting practice. It validated my intuition that I need to work harder at cultivating the executive coaching side of my practice, and it will provide context and a frame for the visioning exercise I plan on undertaking in the next few weeks.

So, you are probably wondering how this assessment tool might benefit you. Here are a few thoughts:

  • If you find yourself wondering from time-to-time if you are in the right position at your non-profit organization (and who doesn’t periodically do this), then this tool might help you find clarity
  • If you find yourself spinning your wheels at work, then this tool might help you find traction
  • If you find yourself struggling with building a powerful, efficient team, then this tool might help you with hiring, project assignment, and how to best manage/coach your direct reports.

Have you used this tool or others like it? If so, please scroll down to the comment box and share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Nominating committee versus board development committee?


recruitmentI belong to a professional association and recently agreed to join their nominating committee to help the board of directors fill a few expiring board terms. This volunteer experience has made “board recruitment” top of mind for me over the last few weeks. I also can’t stop thinking about the various organizational structures and strategies/approaches to board recruitment. When this happens to me, I know there must be a blog post brewing.

Nominating committee approach

This method of undertaking board recruitment was what I was first exposed to as a young non-profit professional working for the Boy Scouts of America back in the 1990s.

A nominating committee is:

  • typically an ad hoc committee
  • pulled together a few months before existing board terms expire
  • composed of both board members and various other stakeholders
  • responsible for identifying board prospects
  • responsible for pulling together a slate of volunteers for a larger body of membership to consider

There are variations on this approach.

I’ve been involved in nominating committees responsible for:

  • identifying and evaluating prospects
  • ranking prospects
  • building a slate of prospects
  • presenting a slate of prospects to the membership (where the slate is exactly equal to the number of vacancies that need to be filled)
  • asking the at-large membership to approve the slate or send the nominating committee back to the drawing board to re-develop a different slate

I’ve also been involved in nominating committees responsible for:

  • sifting through nominations from the field
  • interviewing applicants (based on board gap assessment and what the board needs with regards to skill sets and experiences)
  • constructing a ballot of vetted prospects without regard for how many vacancies need to be filled
  • asking the at-large membership to vote for a smaller subset of what appears on their ballot

Board Development / Board Governance Committee

The alternative to an ad hoc Nominating Committee is a Board Development (or board governance) standing committee. In the last 15 years of my non-profit career, I’ve become more familiar with this approach to board recruitment.

A board development committee is:

  • standing committee that meets throughout the calendar year
  • composed of both board members and various other stakeholders
  • responsible for gap assessment
  • responsible for identifying and evaluating board prospects
  • responsible for recruiting board prospects
  • responsible for onboarding and orientation of new board volunteers
  • responsible for developing and implementing a board training calendar (e.g. external conferences as well as boardroom trainings)
  • responsible for annual review/evaluation of individual board volunteers
  • sometimes a resource to the board president on governance issues (e.g. assistance with committee structure, meeting design, annual board retreat, etc)

My two cents

I personally like the board development/board governance standing committee option over the old fashion Nominating Committee approach for the following reasons:

  • It feels more comprehensive in its approach to building/sustaining an organization
  • It feels more strategic with regards to aligning skills/experiences of volunteers with organizational talent gaps
  • It feels focused and more permanent (rather than “it’s that time of the year again” mentality)

In a perfect world, I believe your organization is best served when you can align your board development practices with approaches that are intentional, mindful and strategic.

While I recognize that membership-based organizations might struggle with this approach, I still think a board development committee can work in those environments and accommodate practices such as a “call for nominations” from the at-large membership.  In these situations, if there needs to be voting from the membership, then I obviously favor the practice of putting a slate of prospects in front of the membership for a thumbs up or thumbs down vote.

Your thoughts? What does your organization do to be intentional, mindful and strategic with its board recruitment, development and governance? Please scroll down and provide your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. After all, we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Everyone is a Marketer: Building an Organization-wide Marketing Team


Hi everyone! I know Erik mentioned, I’d write about technology, but when I sat down to write this post, the topic of building a marketing team just would not leave me. I hope you enjoy it! I’ll see if I can convince Erik to let me guest blog again and I promise that post will be more focused along what I have written in the past, on Mondays with Marissa. Thanks for letting me blog-sit, DonorDreams readers! Erik is back on Thursday! 


A few weeks ago, Erik reflected on a quote by Warren Buffet, “The people own the brand.” That got me thinking; if the marketing-strategy-image-better-business-togetherpeople own the brand, then we as nonprofit staff, are all marketers. It doesn’t matter what position you hold in your organization. Every single staff member is a marketer or at the very least can be part of the marketing team.

As a member of the marketing department, it is my job to grow an audience of participants, supporters and influencers for our organization through various means of communication. This is a challenging job and one, in my opinion, should not rest solely on the shoulders of one department. It is not possible for me to know all of the programs that need to be promoted, see the impact we are making in the community, and attract new members all at the same time. I need help. So together with the other members of my department, we worked to create an organization-wide marketing team.

Here’s how we did it and how you can too:

  • Create a marketing strategy – It is the job of the marketing department (or person) to figure out which audiences are reached by which media channel. Perhaps your participants are all on Facebook, but you can reach all of your supporters via email. Take time and figure this out. Also, meet with each department to figure out what that department’s goals are. Put all of in this information down in one place. It can be as basic or as detailed as your time and resources allow and the format does not matter.
  • Identify key team members – Look at your entire organization. Who communicates with the marketing team (or person) the most? Are there members of other departments that want to develop marketing skills? These people will give the marketing team (or person) the information they need to execute their marketing goals. Nonprofits tend to become siloed because each department is focused on their own set of goals, it can help to have a person who is a bridge between their department and the marketing team. Also, other members of each department might feel more accountable to a member of their own team and as a result, marketing information might be more readily available.
  • Decide on a communication system – Email can get clunky, but if it is what works best for your organization, run with it. However, maybe you’ll find that project management software, like Trello, helps organize things and keeps communication fluid, and focused. Or perhaps, it could be a communication call where a representative from each department (ideally, a member of your team you figured out in the step above) shares what needs promotion in their area. Whatever it is, make sure there is a clear system on how communication will flow.
  • Test it out – Now that you have your strategy, team, and system in place, see how it works. It is important to keep an open mind; ask for feedback and make adjustments.
  • Be transparent – After testing out, let the rest of your organization know how the marketing team is now spread across all departments and explain the impact it is having. Where I work, we have seen that creating a team of promotion managers has allowed the marketing department to go from only being scheduled a week ahead of time, to being scheduled at least two weeks ahead and having promotion items on the calendar a full month ahead.

What I described above, is a step-by-step method for creating a structured marketing team that is spread throughout your organization. Maybe your organization needs something more flexible. In that case, the most important thing is to find a communication system that works best for your organization. This is the anchor for everything.

In many organizations the marketing team, is really only one person. It is important to lean on the entire staff to provide this person with information needed to create participants, supporters and influencers. In order for that to happen people need to know what to do with the information they are submitting to the marketing team and get feedback from the marketing team on how they are going to use it.don draper

On a recent episode of Mad Men, Donald Draper said, “Behind every great ad, is a great story.” Building an organization-wide marketing team can make it easier to find the stories needed to create that great ad/blog post/social media post – one that can grow the organization’s membership, donor base, and awareness.

Do you work in the marketing department of your organization? How do you manage internal communications to ensure you have the information you need to tell your story? Let us know in the comments!

MarissaGarza

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