Marketing OR Communications? If You Had to Choose, Which Would You Pick?

August 8, 2011

For years I have been amused when a nonprofit organization would label one of its key departments “Marketing AND Communications.” To me, that always seemed redundant. After all, you never hear a CFO claim responsibility for the Department of Finance, Accounting and Accounts Payable.

A university president once talked with me about leading his marketing and communications team. When I asked if he would consider shortening the title for simplicity, he emphatically declined. For that and other reasons, neither of us seriously considered forming a working partnership.

Later, when I taught marketing at another university, I spent considerable time talking about the relationship between marketing and communications. I never believed the two terms were synonymous or interchangeable, and I drilled into my students the concept that communications comes at the end of the marketing process.

Five years ago I left my position as Vice President of Marketing at United Way. Although communications was part of my portfolio, it always grated on me when my CEO referred to my department as “marketing and communications.” Although I appreciated his thorough description of my team’s role, I also thought he was being unnecessarily redundant.

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Taylor Saalfeld — My Part in the Difference

December 15, 2010

Taylor Saalfeld

Guest Post by Taylor Saalfeld

Over the past few weeks, I have had quite a bit of time to sit with the question, “Why do you want to work in the nonprofit sector?”  And to be quite honest I have been wrestling with this question and how to state my reasoning more than I would have ever thought.  My struggle is a result of trying to capture my heart and place it in writing.  In my best attempts to do so, the following is what has resulted.

I want to make a difference.  “Well isn’t that the goal of every nonprofit entity operating today?” you may ask and to that I would respond, “yes.”  But my difference is a result of who I am and where I have come from.

On Thanksgiving, I was blessed with the opportunity to sit with my father and grandfather and watch a WWII documentary on the History Channel about the 8th Air Force.  I will never forget the emotions played on my grandfather’s face as he watched this documentary.  As a veteran, B-17 pilot in 8th Air Force, 34th Bomb Group, he was reliving his history and the pride for the difference that he, along with his fellow brotherhood of airmen, made was evident.  This pride I have only seen matched on the face of my father, who battled in a very different war.

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I Hate Fundraising When…

December 7, 2010

Tis the holiday season! As winter approaches, nonprofit solicitations are swirling around me faster than snowflakes in a December blizzard.

Though I’m no Scrooge, I’ll admit that I hate fundraising when it is…

  1. Not relevant. The fact that you need money is not my problem. You won’t get a contribution from me by telling me how desperate you are. My advice: Make your case by explaining how my world will be a better place when I give to your cause.
  2. Based upon guilt or fear. If your cause is worthy of my support, don’t play mind games to manipulate my behavior. My advice: Make me feel smarter by investing in your organization.
  3. Not differentiating. Every nonprofit is aggressively raising money, especially this time of the year. Unless you can show me how your cause is the best investment in things I care about, you’re just making noise in an already noisy world. My advice: Focus on the unique niche that only you can fill.
  4. Coerced. If I’m forced to give, you may achieve a short-term result. Trust me, though:  I’ll forever resent being strong-armed and I will look for ways to distance myself from your organization at the earliest opportunity. My advice: Give me a choice and invite me to voluntarily join your team.
  5. Treated as an end objective. Fundraising is a means to an end. It’s purpose is to help an organization have adequate resources to fulfill its mission. A nonprofit does not exist to raise money, but rather it raises money so it can continue to exist. My advice: Talk more about your mission and less about how much money you need.
  6. More interested in my money than in me. If we don’t have a relationship, then I’m probably not going to give. Any farmer knows you cannot reap a harvest until you’ve planted the seed, nurtured the crop and waited patiently for nature to take its course. My advice: Give me ways to make philanthropy a natural expression of my relationship with your organization.

Chandra Clark — Why I Have Chosen a Career in the Nonprofit World

December 2, 2010

Chandra Clark

Guest Post by Chandra Clark

I have chosen to pursue a career in the nonprofit world because I am passionate about transforming lives. It’s my heart’s desire to lead a successful faith-based nonprofit organization specifically designed for children and young women. My passion is best described in poetic form:


I am from brokenness, rejection and fear

I am from slander, gossip and malice

I am from broken virginity, broken vows and a broken heart

I am from “I love you” only to find that it wasn’t love at all

I am from a tarnished body image and a façade to protect the wounds

I am from vanity used as a replacement for a lost identity

I am from father wounds that run deep to the core of the soul

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Introducing Student Guest Bloggers

December 1, 2010

Last month I was honored to speak before a class of university students preparing for careers in the nonprofit sector. Our topic of conversation was social media.

We talked about the trends in social media, ways to use social media in a nonprofit organization and the blurring of our personal and professional lives.

We even discussed using social media tools for personal branding. I shared my thoughts on using Facebook to differentiate oneself when launching a career. I challenged the students to use social media to “brand” themselves in an open, transparent and authentic manner. Then, to encourage them to develop their own online presence, I did something I’ve never done.

As an experiment, I invited each student to become a guest blogger here on my personal site. I offered this space to anyone in the class who wanted to share why he or she had chosen to pursue a career in the nonprofit world. A couple of students accepted the invitation. Read the rest of this entry »

Day 24 – Social Media Plan – Business

November 4, 2010

Develop a social media plan that integrates new and traditional media.

Some people are so obsessed with social media technology that they overlook their communication strategy.

They are so focused on gadgets, applications and tactics that they completely miss the obvious:  These are only tools!

Tools are used to create or build something. Tools, technology and tactics are all a means to an end. The “end” is often defined in a well-written marketing goal. A goal articulates what success will look like and offers a clear, measurable definition of the desired outcome.

A communications plan should 1) target a specific audience, 2) define key marketing messages and 3) select the appropriate channels to deliver the right message to the right audience.

These communication channels should include a mix of traditional and new media. I define the two this way:

Traditional media primarily push information outward from a centralized source. They “broadcast” information in one direction. Examples are television, radio, newspapers, direct mail, newsletters and brochures.

New media (sometimes called social media) work best when the content is user-generated. Rather than broadcasting outward, new media rely upon interactions and conversations. Examples of new media are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress and other social networking platforms.

Traditional and new media must be integrated if you want to build a strong and effective marketing communication program.

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Day 23 – Impact of Marketing

November 3, 2010

Define what would be lost without a marketing program.

Valuable insight can be gained by asking, “What would be lost to the organization or to the community if the marketing department were downsized or even eliminated?”

A mission statement focuses on why we exist, our raison d’être. Sometimes, though, it helps to understand our mission by looking at things from a negative vantage point.

I always love watching the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life. As you may recall, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) hit rock bottom. In his despair, he was given a glimpse of what his small town would look like if he had never been born. By examining his life from that perspective, he could clearly see his inherent value. He realized how much others really needed him.

Occasionally, I will mentally create my own version of the Wonderful Life movie. I visualize what the American Red Cross would be like without an effective marketing program. How would the organization be less effective in fulfilling its mission? What would go missing if there was no marketing? What would be the measurable impact upon the bottom line? Would revenue be lost, either directly or indirectly?

The questions can drill even deeper:  What intangibles would be lost if current donors were uninformed because of a lack of communication? Or if prospective donors were never made aware of the impact they could have? Or if potential volunteers did not know the needs they could fill?

I am convinced marketing helps to make a more “wonderful life” for the thousands of people who rely upon the humanitarian services of the Red Cross. As a nonprofit marketer, I find that to be professionally rewarding and personally rejuvenating.

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A Manifesto for Marketing Success

August 18, 2010

Marketing is not as complicated as some want you to think. Good marketing is based upon common sense, though such sense is uncommon.

With a commitment to successful marketing, I invite you to join me in believing  that:

  1. Marketing will flounder when not in pursuit of a measurable goal.
  2. If a product, service or even a person cannot be differentiated, it cannot be marketed.
  3. Marketing will fail unless strategy drives tactics, not vice versa.
  4. Marketing must be based upon the concept of exchanges. Without a quid-pro-quo exchange, we will never have a solid marketing program.
  5. Value can be defined only by the customer, not by the company producing the product or service. (Nonprofit organizations especially have trouble with this.)
  6. The social media revolution is the best thing to happen to marketing in a long, long time, even though the tools for achieving marketing success have forever changed.
  7. Old-school marketers who try to control the message will become increasingly frustrated, disoriented and ultimately obsolete.
  8. You are still functioning in a 1.0 world—even if you’re using 2.0 tools—when you are not creating community and engaging people in conversations.
  9. If we aim our message at no one in particular, we shouldn’t be surprised if no one in particular responds.
  10. Communications comes at the end of the marketing process, not at the beginning.


What Do You Do (In Seven Words)?

February 3, 2010

A friend of mine, Mark Whitaker, is an experienced market research professional. His official title is Strategic Research Consultant at The Kansas City Star.

That’s an impressive title, but what does it mean? What does he really do? What impact does he actually make?

In seven words on LinkedIn, Mark summarizes his job as “helping you find the information you need.”

I really like that “job description” for three reasons:

  1. It’s simple. I can understand it without having to translate industry jargon.
  2. It’s differentiating. It really describes what he does, not what his company or co-workers do.
  3. It’s outwardly focused. He describes what he does for others. He focuses on the benefits he provides, not the process involved. Read the rest of this entry »

Please, Not Another Fundraising Campaign!

December 3, 2009

Two years ago I served on the Finance Committee of my church. Like many nonprofits facing an unbalanced budget, we debated the merits of yet another fundraising campaign. I was among a minority who felt that another campaign was not the “silver bullet.” I shared my thoughts in an e-mail sent to my fellow committee members.

Believing that some of those ideas may be relevant beyond the parochial boundaries of my church, I share them with the hope that nonprofit professionals will be more strategic and less reactive when raising money. Here’s what I wrote back in July 2007:

Dear friends. First, I acknowledge that the budget needs an infusion of cash. Without question, we need more money and we need to do something quickly and dramatically.  But…

Without the backdrop of a strategic vision, a fundraising campaign may ultimately do greater long-term damage to our finances. If we ask people for financial engagement when too few feel engaged at other levels, they may become calloused to our financial needs. How many hundreds of times have they heard us cry, “The sky is falling!” because expenses exceed revenue?

I begin, though, with the following assumptions:

  1. People everywhere are experiencing donor fatigue. They are saturated with fundraising appeals, not only at church but in their everyday lives. The needs are endless and the appeals keep coming.
  2. In the absence of a compelling, strategic vision, people become disengaged and uninspired. Members truly want to be inspired, engaged and strategically led. The congregation is comprised of good people who want to be involved and who are capable of generously giving more.
  3. Once members feel inspired, engaged and strategically led, they will come alive and be much more involved.

Within the Finance Committee we have discussed various reasons why people should give. I’ve clustered all those messages into the following three categories: Read the rest of this entry »

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