From Silos to Synergy?

Having recently returned from a conference, I’ve been thinking about some of the current themes in nonprofit technology. As in the past, integration (vs. silos) was a major topic. In recent years the concept of silos vs. integrated systems has come up time and again and I’ve often felt the discussion missed the mark. While in the extreme, data silos can definitely contribute to issues, the major barrier to effective, consistent communication and knowing your constituents is often a human one.

As a technology provider, I really wish software could work magic and address the “people” aspect of integration, but it cannot. This year the discussion finally began to move away from data silos and on to work and intellectual capital silos. As I sat listening to the presenters, I was almost giddy over the shift in the conversation. There was a brief discussion about the concept of a 360 degree view of your constituent and, interestingly enough, that perhaps it isn’t necessary, despite the marketing rage with software vendors lately. Perhaps the “sweet spot” of cost vs. benefit is really somewhere else…say 245 degrees, for example. This view, while still contingent upon some shared data, has less to do with how you store your data and what tools you use and more to do with cross-departmental communication. For example, your traditional development department may be communicating a different message than your online marketing folks (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) because the two groups aren’t aware of what the other group is doing. Perhaps your traditional development folks and online marketing folks have different goals and are unaware of how these goals can be synergistic. With some of this in mind, I thought I’d identify a few of the changes organizations can make to integrate fundraising strategies so that constituents receive better, more consistent communication and I’ll even mention a few about data!

  • Hold a meeting. I’m not a fan of meetings, but sometimes, they are necessary. This meeting should involve both traditional development and online marketing. Come prepared to identify your past few appeals and campaigns, bring notes on who received the messages and the timing of those messages. Compare notes to see where there were messages going to constituents from both groups. Were they in sync campaign-wise? Were they too close together? Were they too far apart?
  • Work on your next campaign or series of appeals together. (This means more meetings, sorry.) Plan your messaging.
  • Figure out what bits of data each group would like to know. Often times, this information can easily be made available in both traditional fundraising systems and online marketing systems. Or, perhaps you can grant your online marketing folks access to the constituent database.
  •  You can update your database to reflect that constituents were sent specific emails. In ResultsPlus you can run an import with the names (emails are frequently good links to records in ResultsPlus) and set an appeal, a message title and date. Another way is to run the mail merge wizard using a query and defaulting the same information; you don’t actually have to send a letter or email, you can choose a record-only option. Doing this enables users (both traditional development and online marketing) to see a more well-rounded view of communications constituents are receiving.
  • Gather email addresses from traditional mailings so that the online marketing folks can make use of them.
  • Upload lists to online resources like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp for your campaigns.
  • Update mailing codes in fundraising software to reflect opt-outs from email without losing the ability to communicate using other methods, like regular mail.If you find it valuable, you can even work through your Twitter follower and bring the data you wish into your fundraising software to use as you slice and dice your data. Here’s a link to a site with great free social media tools.

The above data components are easily done with traditional import/export features. Or, if you have high traffic offline and online communication plans, these updates can be automated.

  • If you have a donor who usually gives online, but they give at a rate that indicates they should perhaps be identified as a major gift prospect, let your major gifts officers know. Let he or she drive the communications for that donor. If you have someone who prefers to only receive online communications (and this person’s giving history reflects that), inform your online marketing folks of this donor and let them drive that.

Are there other things you are doing to promote collaboration between departments at your organization that result in more effective campaigns? Is there something you struggle with? Let us know below. We’d be happy to try and help!