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Developing Collaboration between Marketers and Fundraisers in the Arts

On 1 February the AMA brought together some of the UK’s best arts marketers and fundraisers for a day of sharing learnings from their Shared Ambition program. As one of the presenters who spoke at Shared Ambition about the challenges and benefits of collaboration for arts organisations, I was particularly grateful for the day because collaboration has been so important to my own career. As a fundraiser in the arts for over 15 years, it’s safe to say everything I have accomplished has been in partnership with some remarkable and generous marketers.

Now, as Sector Strategy Lead at Spektrix specialising in Development and Fundraising, I’m privileged to not only have my own experience to draw on but also to have a view on over 340 clients’ approach to collaboration. This has enabled me to see many more inspiring fundraiser and marketer collaborations in practice. This alongside the case studies we heard at the Shared Ambition Day echo what we’ve been seeing across the arts organisations we work with and my own experience in the field. Time and again, clear patterns about successful collaborations emerge.

Building towards shared goals

We’ve been talking as a sector about breaking down silos for years with limited success. To try something new, take a page from behavioural psychologists, who have found that when trying to tackle new habits, it’s important to be positively rather than negatively motivated. If you’re interested in learning more about this principle and its business applications, I recommend the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

Following from this, instead of thinking about breaking down silos, perhaps we can reframe the problem in a positive way: building common goals. I’ve seen this principle in my own career - when working on teams united by a common project and working towards well-defined goals, collaboration just comes naturally. At Spektrix, we’ve seen several of our clients turn away from siloed working by using just this reframe. They combine annual targets and then exceed them substantially, by being mutually accountable for both earned and contributed income as well as campaign success.

Learning from each other

My skills as a fundraiser have been greatly improved by working closely with marketers who have taught me important lessons in communication, messaging and segmentation.

Marketers are great at capturing customer interest quickly and provoking immediate reactions. For fundraisers, executing plans which communicate urgency to take action can mean the difference between success and failure meeting annual targets. Marketers are also often masters at segmenting large amounts of data to find the right person for the right message at the right time on a large scale. This approach is valuable to fundraisers looking to develop systematic plans to find new lower-level donors to help feed a healthy donor pipeline.

I also encourage marketers to consider working with fundraisers to help achieve their own goals. Fundraisers often have access to lots of facetime with your organisation’s most passionate supporters, and these are also often your biggest ticket-buyers. Tapping into this exposure and these in-depth insights about your most engaged customers can help inform decision making when structuring marketing campaigns and messaging . Also, while marketers’ communication styles can be pithy, clear, and action-oriented, fundraisers can be more experienced with building and nurturing long-term, lasting relationships with a softer, more emotive style. As you look to build your brand, drive loyalty and increase reattendance with your ticket buyers, tapping into the kind of emotional motivators your fundraising team are practiced at creating will help you build lasting relationships with your audiences.

Sharing space, work and tools

Of course, all the shared goals and respect in the world isn’t going to get the work done, bringing us to our third lesson in collaboration: working together. This can mean many things depending on the size and complexity of your organisation but it can also be as simple as physically sitting together to get the work done. As one participant at Shared Ambition said, “move your chair” to another department from time to time. Another Spektrix client recommends shadowing between departments at larger organisations, so teams have a better understanding of the day to day challenges and opportunities, as well as opportunities for collaboration, in the other department.

The arts organisations we work with often cite the implementation of a single CRM system for both marketing and fundraising as a crucial turning point in the relationship between the two departments. By virtue of sharing a system, they simply have to create mutual goals and mutual segmenting plans, and work together to implement them. Doing that work has led to a better understanding of each other’s strengths and resulted in better outcomes, both for the bottom line but also for their audiences.

Key takeaways

  1. Approach collaboration by building common goals rather than breaking down silos.
  2. Learning from each other can help marketers and fundraisers build lasting relationships with audiences and supporters.
  3. Working together is the key to collaboration from sitting together through to shadowing other teams to gain an understanding of each other's challenges and opportunities.

This article was first published in  the JAM Spring 2018 issue,  published by the Arts Marketing Association. You can find out more about the AMA and their Shared Ambition programme on their website.