The Case for Advancement
Updated: Jun 20, 2019
Throughout my career, I've seen development staffers struggle with their marketing and communications colleagues. I’ve also seen volunteers being “protected” from development staff over and over again. I've seen organizations merge and un-merge the three departments, with varying results. Combining the functions can be tricky, but an organization of silos is never ideal.
I'm an advocate for combining Development, Marketing, and Volunteer Services under the umbrella of Advancement, and here's why.
In my experience, it has worked well to have a strong leader overseeing the brilliant minds that drive Development and Marketing. The pace at a nonprofit can be breathtaking, and both departments can benefit from a leader who is keeping an eye on the big picture.
Development and Volunteer Services need Marketing.
Why does your Marketing department exist if not to attract more dollars and more volunteers to your cause? If your marketing department is focused solely on recruiting program participants or selling tickets to your museum/theater/concert hall, you're missing a big piece of the puzzle.
I once worked for Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota, where the marketing department focused 99% of its attention on driving shoppers to Goodwill stores. Development wasn't given any social media airtime to proclaim the organization's impact because we needed to advertise red tag day (and hundreds of other sales promotions). Needless to say, fundraising wasn't very successful in an organization with such a one-track mind.
The huge connection between volunteerism and fundraising.
When Volunteer Services and Development teams operate independently, huge opportunities for corporate engagement and institutional giving can be missed. Many corporate foundations consider funding only those organizations with which their employees are engaged. Many engaged employees can open doors for sponsorships and grants. Many corporate grantors could provide large numbers of volunteers, if given the opportunity.
And that’s just corporate giving. Volunteers are the best source of individual donations and planned gifts you can find. If your Development and Volunteer Services staff aren’t sitting across the table from each other regularly, you can be sure you’re leaving stones unturned when it comes to maximizing dollars raised.
A place at the table.
Bringing Development, Marketing and Communications, and Volunteer Services together under one Director/Vice President/Chief Advancement Officer can also ensure that each of these important areas is represented at your organization’s highest circle of leadership.
In my experience, creating an Advancement Department can be tricky where there were once separate departments. Especially when creating a new position at the helm of the new department, staffers can feel demoted. But the benefits outweigh the risks. Tear down those silos!