How Nonprofit Operations Teams Are Merging to Reach the Modern Donor


New expectations from modern donors changed more than fundraising strategies. In some cases, entire nonprofit operations teams and cultures evolved to meet the demands. These responsive nonprofits smartly identified that silos were hindering their growth, rather than serving it.

Not all organizations have made the shift, however. Many continue to repeat the same tactics, hoping to eventually make up the difference. Some years, it works. But more and more, nonprofits see stagnant fundraising numbers. It’s clear that ignoring the shifting trends will hurt your nonprofit in the end.

We want to help move your nonprofit operations towards a more collaborative and growth-minded environment. We looked at the most common merges in responsive nonprofits to find trends and strategies that you can apply to your operations. Here is what we found.

Development and Communications Teams Working Together

Responsive nonprofits have a single goal in mind: put the donor at the center of everything. All the work that organization does is a direct result of donors’ generosity. The responsive nonprofit knows that they are simply the messenger between donors and beneficiaries.

This shift in focus lead many nonprofit operations to blend their development and communications teams. The benefit is a cohesive, comprehensive donor experience. Whether the person is a new subscriber or a long-time donor, the information shared between the communications and development teams provides a better experience.

Many teams identify one person or small group to oversee details of each donor in order to connect them with the right message at the right time. Using details about social capital, engagement, RFM and other variables, a blended team can create new targeted development campaigns with better ROI. The investment in segmented approaches to development, communications and fundraising gives each donor a unique experience relevant to their interests and the result is higher lifetime value.

Communications and IT Supporting Each Other

Communications teams at responsive nonprofits need powerful software that can maintain the personalized experiences that constituents expect. With a tech-savvy member of your communications team, your nonprofit operations can streamline your workflow, automate daily tasks and give your team the freedom it needs to strategize around better donor relationships.

It’s such an effective collaboration, in fact, that CMOs are now spending more of their budget on tech investments than IT departments. Some are spending more on powerful software solutions than they are on talent. That’s not the right solution for everyone, but it does show the impact the right tools can have on your nonprofit operations.

Instead of adding more and more people to scale simple tasks like sending thank you notes to online donors, your team can create a variety of notes and automate them to send whenever a donation is made. In collaboration with the IT team, communications professionals can identify points in their workflow that can be optimized, automated or removed in favor of a more efficient responsive fundraising process.

Programs and Communications Crossover

Donor-centric responsive nonprofits prioritize the donor’s involvement in the cause. Communications teams are starting to see how hungry donors are for content that closes the loop and highlights the impact they are making on the causes that are most important to them. They’re also seeing the timeline between communications shrink. They need more information in a variety of ways to ensure each donor feels a personal, relational connection to the organization.

It makes sense that communications teams are integrating with programs teams to create the content donors want. With regular communication and collaboration, nonprofits are publishing more content on a variety of channels using a handful of popular mediums. You can see photos, vlog style videos, sit-down conversations, personal letters, handwritten notes and infographics pop up in communications online and off. And donors appreciate it. No longer are they limited to a single newsletter about a cause that is important to them. They can engage in new ways that resonate most with them and inspire them to share.

New Marketing Teams

Above all, the biggest change to nonprofit operations is a new structure for marketing teams. For years, organizations felt that marketing their work to new people was in poor taste. Some even felt that the cause in itself was enough to draw people in. What responsive nonprofits have realized now is that there are too many conversations happening at once for any organization to automatically get someone’s attention.

In past generations, people saw marketing from all kinds of businesses. Maybe 1 in every 20 TV commercials resonated with them. So, they trained themselves to look for those commercials and ignore everything else. In today’s world, where everyone’s life is curated with only the things they love, they pay attention to everything. Or, as much as they can. To stand out against that kind of competition, nonprofits must evolve their marketing strategies.

Now we’re seeing long-form storytelling, various messaging sent to the same donors and more touchpoints before the first ask. Nonprofits are responding to the signals that the modern donors are giving to them. As a result, they’re seeing fundraising start to improve as well.

Why Collaborative Teams Help with Operating A Nonprofit Successfully

There was a time when silos served nonprofit operations. With so much work to get done and limited resources, clear boundaries and responsibilities made organizations more efficient. That era is over now.

In today’s world, limited resources can stretch much further when used in an efficient way. Teams of two people can execute thoughtful engagement campaigns if they have the right software and strategies in place. Responsive nonprofits spend time focusing on what works and optimizing what doesn’t work rather than repeating inefficient behaviors.

More importantly, collaboration among nonprofit operations brings out the best ideas. Shared knowledge helps make each strategy better. No longer does your team have to rely on assumptions or historical data to make fundraising plans. You can see real-time engagement metrics, understand best practices for each donor type and highlight the right stories whenever you need to. It’s a simple practice to start but it makes an incredible impact on your growth.

Learn More About Responsive Nonprofit Operations

Find out more about what makes a responsive nonprofit and how to start bringing those ideas to your organization in our newest ebook Responsive Fundraising: The Blueprint for Connecting with the Modern DonorYou’ll understand why immediate change is necessary and how to accomplish it in your organization. Download it for free by clicking here.

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