Let go of the marketer and no one need get hurt

If you’ve worked in a not for profit Organisation chances are you’ve witnessed tension between the service providers and the marketers / fundraisers. This of course is a subject of constant debate; a subject oft discussed at senior management meetings; contemplated over cold coffee and no doubt ‘workshopped’ for a solution. In all these discussions both sides are probably trying their hardest to maintain diplomacy. Well, here are a few thoughts from someone who perhaps isn’t as tactful.


Why do service providers often roll their eyes at the very mention of the words ‘marketing and fundraising’?

Marketers do stupid things

Here are just a few examples I’ve seen – and heard about – through my career to date (and please note details and situations have been changed slightly to protect the identity of those involved).

A marketing person – I don’t recall the title – creative director, chief spin artist, whatever you like – constructed a whole campaign which was going to make the Organisation hundreds of thousands of dollars. Only problem was the concept featured people who were blind in one eye only, also known as monocular vision. Yes, you guessed right, the Organisation didn’t provide services to people with monocular vision.

A fundraiser decided that an event to attract ‘a younger audience’ was the go. They were aiming at the 30 something dual income no kids social set. A cocktail event was perfect. The charity was raising money for youth with alcohol and gambling issues.

A communications expert was appalled by the quantity of paper newsletters an Organisation sent. They decided to switch to an email version. 90% of clients on the database didn’t have a recorded email address.

Fundraiser’s make our clients look helpless

Who hasn’t heard this one? Respect, dignity, empowerment, independence – these are the values which are often held high in service Organisations whether it be disability, health, social disadvantage, animal rescue, international aid etc. Yet the marketer will point out time and time again that for fundraising to be successful, donors must see a need and pictures of wonderfully happy and independent clients are just ‘not needy’.

I’m sure that I’m not the first data analyst who has had to compile results of a fundraising test comparing ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ / happy and sad client imagery.

Whether you think it’s fair or not, I believe that the onus is often on the marketing team to work with the client service team to strike the right balance.

Marketing is often irrelevant

It’s rather easy to see how marketing can often seem off the planet. Let’s say you are a counsellor. Each day you speak with families whose children are ill with cancer. You open emails from the marketing team and it is about using the wrong PMS colour on a parent support group brochure. It’s going to look ridiculous, right?

Or this scenario… there is a waiting list for client service and yet there’s active recruitment for someone to work on the Organisation’s website. It is little wonder conflict and resentment are often present.

I’m pleased to say that it isn’t always this way. I witnessed a small but significant moment recently. A fundraiser had been asked to present to a room full of service providers. This could have been a ‘walking in to the lion den’s’ moment, or one completed with polite applause. Instead, a clinician interrupted the presentation to say ‘I just want to say – that’s great. Well done.’ It just goes to show, the marketer need not always be eaten alive.

Do you have an example of marketing stupidity or communication success in a not for profit? Please share.


Posted on June 4, 2011, in Allied health, Fundraising, Not for Profit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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