Wearing Those Development and Marketing “Hats” at the Same Time: A Bad Fit and a Headache

Wearing Those Development and Marketing "Hats" at the Same Time:
A Bad Fit and a Headache


For decades, I have heard about, observed, and have had personal relationships with scores of individuals who attempted to wear the Development and Marketing/Communications/PR "hats" at the same time and who for many years—mostly in vain—struggled to perform both those jobs within their non-profit organizations. Still, the reality is that this undesirable and mostly unworkable practice is currently widespread, and it will continue as long as the leadership of non-profit organizations are willing to attempt to squeeze two very different sets of duties from one person, and for those times when such professionals delude themselves into thinking they can work both activities equally well.

Of course, there are exceptions, and some may very well wear the two hats with a good degree of comfort. However, from my long experience with just about all of the facets of non-profit fund-raising management, what I write and recommend must necessarily not deal with the exception. I have never believed that we can rely upon the exception for success, and that especially holds true in this instance.

The Purpose Of This Article Is:

  • To encourage professionals to think twice regarding the formidable and unique expectations, demands, and the pitfalls they surely will encounter when they are considering accepting such a position having those formidable dual responsibilities.
  • To support professionals already in over their heads working to wear those two hats in their organizations as possibly a way for them to convince management to hire another professional as a colleague to fill one or the other positions.
  • And most important, to make Boards of Trustees and Executive Directors understand and accept what is ideally needed: hiring two staff professionals before they make the mistake of engaging one person, and expecting her or him to do both jobs effectively.

Two Very Different Professions

Often in non-profit organizations, the Marketing/Communications/PR (M/C/PR) department and the fund-raising development department are at odds with each other. They go in different directions and at times, even have adversarial relationships. Development staff tends to adopt a "siege" mentality. Too often, they will self-isolate and choose not to be involved in the non-development activities of their organizations. On the other hand, M/C/PR staff looks upon the needs of development as unreasonable demands on their stretched time and resources: fund-raising-related press releases are needed "now," sponsor and underwriter logos must be on marketing's publications to the degree that development promised to the donors—so, "Hold the presses and wait for development."

The fund-raising development process designed to convince prospective donors to contribute to a non-profit organization is vastly different than the M/C/PR's process for the "delivery" of food, therapy, medicine, education, cultural events, etc. to their constituencies. Development sees fund-raising as a way to make opportunities available to donors to support community and personal concerns through their charitable gifts. M/C/PR advertises, promotes, and publicizes its programs and services to its users and to the general community, always with an eye to the carrying out of the mission. Thus, it is easy to understand the development department's donor-centered focus often being in open conflict with M/C/PR's institution-centered mentality.

The best relationships between M/C/PR and development departments are characterized by a bit of tension—a bit of push-pull—for the good of the organization. However the above mentioned roadblocks to mutual understanding, when carried to extremes, can cause considerable damage to a non-profit organization. They can be removed when the marketing director and the development director regularly coordinate with each other, interact and recognize, encourage and support, their mutual needs, efforts, achievements and successes. Staff meetings, press releases, annual reports, and annual meetings offer such opportunities. It's not always easy to have M/C/PR and development working together as a team for the good of the organization, but it's critically important that they do so, for the very life of the organization is at stake. The M/C/PR and Development Directors can begin simply by talking to each other—and by doing it often.

All By Myself, Alone

However, when one person is both departments, what does that person say to herself or himself about the wearing today of either the M/C/PR or development "hat," or trying to make them both fit at the same time? Officials of non-profit organizations and staff professionals need to understand how difficult it is for a single person to be effective as a fund-raising development professional when attempting to blend those skills with another, and very different, set of skills, such as those used by marketing, public relations, and communications professionals.

The common practice of "wearing two hats" must be thought about with great care and avoided as much as possible. Yes, it's done. Yes, it's done many times–wearing both fund-raising and marketing hats—because many organizations' budgets cannot, or will not, accommodate those two distinct professional posts with two separate professionals. But more often than not, the "mix" of these two professions in one person just does not work, and when it does, it generally does not work well. Why?

Different Expectations

Formidable expectations are thrust upon both development and M/C/PR professionals. However, the extraordinary difference in expectations between the two is graphically illustrated by the fact that the Director of Development is the only staff member who is graded and evaluated in terms of the amount of money raised by the end of the fiscal year. At that time, everything and everyone point to that very public number—the fund-raising goal. Was it met—or not? Success or failure is measured incrementally by how far above or below goal a fund-raising campaign finishes. This "bottom-line" mentality exists nowhere else in a non-profit organization.

In addition, M/C/PR professionals are looking for immediate results (attend our event or take advantage of our service), whereas development professionals would love to have immediate results, but know that fund-raising takes time—and patience.

Different Temperaments

While both development and M/C/PR professionals must be excellent managers and rely on building good and lasting relationships, M/C/PR professionals are the talented idea generators who are great at creating a favorable "climate" for an organization's name recognition and at raising awareness of its benefit to the community. Where those competent professionals might stumble is in the day-to-day care and managing of a fund-raising campaign: the slogging process of building a network of volunteer solicitors, training them, and so on, is not their strong suit. The temperaments of M/C/PR professionals and development professionals are different enough that it is almost impossible that someone could star in both disciplines.

You Cannot Get 200% Effort from One Person

Even at best, the one person doing both very different jobs will find that it is next to impossible to know where the duty "threshold" is. That is, as they ask themselves, "Just how far do I go with press releases, open houses, brochures, other media, etc., before I commence a fund-raising program that directly asks for contributions?" Or the other way around, "How can we ask for money from the community if we are not that well known, have not won a favorable reputation, and if our volunteers, donors and prospects do not know, or know well enough, our case for support for a specific fund-raising campaign? You can see the dilemma. It's the classic "apples to oranges" situation. Personal, professional, and organizational risks are taken when one staff professional has these dual responsibilities. More often than not, the staff professionals hired to do both jobs have experience and a comfort level with M/C/PR, and they will surely expend their best efforts in that direction, oftentimes to the detriment of fund-raising. On the other hand, if they do have familiarity with fund-raising, this might cause those necessary M/C/PR initiatives to fall much too far behind or be ignored.

Everyone would agree that fund-raising is a 100% effort. They would agree that managing a full marketing/communications/PR program requires a 100% effort. Do the math. Since you cannot get 200% from one individual, you will need to settle for, at best, 50% and 50%, respectively. Chances are, though, the ratio will be uneven. In any event, it works out that both endeavors will be compromised and usually results in bringing considerable personal trials and anguish to the individual wearing those two hats.

You Just Can't Win

Over many years of conducting hundreds of fund-raising seminars and workshops, I have asked my audiences the same question: "How many of you are wearing at least two hats for your organization—especially for fund-raising development and M/C/PR? Invariably, well over half raise their hands. And when I tell them how much I worry about them, and why, they all show that knowing, and somewhat painful, smile and nod their heads in agreement.

They know firsthand the tugs, the wrenching, the criticisms, and the hardships when, while doing both jobs, they hear from their leaders and others, "Why isn't the money coming in?" This is usually from board members who themselves are not helping to raise the money. At the same time, from other leaders and staff they will hear, "Why is our organization such a well-kept secret?" This, even when they are presented with reams of publicity material. Definitely, this is not a win-win situation.

I'm especially reminded of the time I was hired to consult with a non-profit private school to mentor its Director of Development/Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations. We were to meet once a week for a six-month consultation during which time we would map out my suggested development plans in accord with the other side of her duties. Together, we effectively fashioned those two activities into a workable operation. That is, until she went to work the next day. Invariably, week after week she would be badgered at every turn from the CEO for more funding results because the money was not coming in fast enough in the quantities desired, and from the Dean of Faculty, because she was not promoting well enough the faculty's lectures and seminars and other academic programs. Nothing we could do would satisfy one or the other. It was necessary to cease my involvement since my counsel was not being implemented, and shortly thereafter, the harried professional resigned.

The Board Must Provide for the Best Staff to Do Both Jobs

Organizations would be far better off if leadership would recognize the unfair and unreasonable demands they are placing on the one individual who is responsible for both M/C/PR and development. To employ a "One-for-Two" fix for marketing and development needs is penny wise and pound foolish. Cash-strapped they may be to pay for both professionals' salaries, but they must accelerate their fund-raising activity and make provision in the operating budget for two professionals performing their respective duties 100% of the time. You cannot get 200% from anyone.

P. S. When the Executive Director Must Wear All of the Hats

I found it necessary in this article to deal primarily with the nearly impossible challenge to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in doing the day-to-day job when a single person is at the same time a fund-raising development professional and a marketing/communications/PR professional. Coming exclusively from a fund-raising background, I felt that was where I should place my focus because of my scores of dealings with those two types of professions. But I know full well of yet another even more difficult situation.

I am acutely aware of the many organizations which have but one staff person in the role of Executive Director, and conditions require that this Herculean job include all other operational activities. From extensive personal communications with such heroes and heroines, I have nothing but the fullest admiration and regard for them—always accompanied by my deep concern because their Boards invariably insist that the Executive Director apportion her or his duties to be mainly or solely responsible for fund-raising. Good executive directors work hard to see that the organization fulfills its mission effectively and efficiently. If they are to succeed, it's all the more nearly impossible when they need to represent each of the different parts of the organization at different times in different ways. To consider that one person is driven by the Board to meet programming and operational needs and be responsible for seeing that the organization stays in balance, has me literally taking off my "hat" to such people, but at the same time, heaping deserved criticism on a Board of Trustees that would allow such a deplorable situation.


Additional suggested reading

Those are my views about the mixing of fund-raising responsibilities with marketing/communications/public relations duties. I welcome your comments.



6 responses to “Wearing Those Development and Marketing “Hats” at the Same Time: A Bad Fit and a Headache”

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  1. Karen says:

    I am Head of Fundraising & Communications for an animal welfare organisation in Cape Town and have a member of my team who refuses to see the value in networking with the public at markets, fetes, public events and the like, even when I have explained that the funds raised are sometimes secondary to the interaction, visual value of our presence and the chance to ask for donations, debit orders, support etc at these public events/platforms.  She feels they are small and a waste of time.  Her husband is a marketing guru and I feel she is under his influence, which worries me as I am finding her negative attitude to our efforts a drain on the team.  I will be giving her your article and would value any other articles/opinions on the difference between marketing and fundraising. I am doing lots of research myself to arm myself with info, but I am also finding that I know what raises funds, but cannot get the message over.  I have been a professional fundraiser for 20 years and I think my staff member is indicating that my thinking is "old school" !  I value interaction with the public where ever I can and see fundraising as building relationships.  Marketing is the development of the NGO's name.  YOur comments would be welcome.  Regards and thanks, k

    • David Patterson says:



      I have decades of experience as both a professional fundraiser and marketer. I have been CEO of both marketing companies and nonprofits. As a fundraiser, I have been involved in raising hundreds of millions of dollars. As a marketer I have been responsible for individual campaigns with budgets in excess of $10 million. While I am now in my sixties, I have also been a major player in the development of online strategies for major nonprofits including Heifer International, where as a member of the marketing department, I ran all of that organization's new media operations—websites, email marketing, video production, social media, etc. The marketing department at Heifer was responsible for more that 75% of contributed income due to the reliance on alternative giving.


      The foregoing is to make it clear that I am neither "old school" nor "new school". When it comes to marketing or fundraising, I am an opportunist who takes advantage of any tool, strategy, tactic, concept, or idea that can deliver cost effective results. It doesn't matter to me whether it is tried and true or so far off the wall that I have to fight tooth and nail to get "my crazy approach" accepted.


      Your team member is flat out wrong about the value of appearing at events. That's if the main reason for attending is to create interaction with persons who may have an interest in what your organization does. All fundraising is about relationship building. It makes no difference whether you are after small gifts or large gifts. In the end you are always after multiple gifts. In order to get a second gift, you need to get a first gift. In order to get a first gift you have to establish a connection. At Heifer International while I was watching the online take top a million dollars in a single day, we were still committed to community fairs and events all over the United States. In fact many online givers had their first real contact with Heifer at such an event.


      I have to wonder if your team member isn't rejecting your commitment to events for personal reasons. If you're asking her to work those events and if her husband wants that portion of her time to himself, maybe that's fueling her objections and his put down of the strategy. If her negativity is directed in general at your departments efforts or at the entire organization, I would think about getting rid of her.


      On the other hand if you have the freedom to do so, you might ask her to come up with an idea of her own and develop it within a budget you set. Challenge her to show you the practical effectiveness of her better way, but to do it within the budgetary constraints of the organization. Ask her to put forth her most creative ideas for testing, but to do so within the reality of the resources available to the organization. Make it clear that her approach has to be a small part of the overall budget and that others beside you and she will need to pass on its appropriateness. Also put a team to work on the idea. Let her hear her peers views directly. I have always found that reality spurs my creativity rather than inhibiting it.


      As far as the difference between marketing and fundraising goes, I don't see that difference as strongly as some do. Both are about building relationships. It's just that the actions you want to develop out of those relationships differ. Fundraising is as much about brand as marketing is. Whether you're selling product or asking for a donation, you're trying to get a person to make a decision to exchange something they value for something you can provide that they come to value. Repeat gifts like repeat sales are truly about embracing the value proposition of an organization, of a brand.


      Where I do agree strongly with this article is that it can be damn hard to be both a marketing officer and a development officer for an organization at the same time. You are forced to work for outcomes that differ in their timing value and in their interaction with the organization. When that happens, it can be hard to decide to which to give preference of position. Separate marketing and development departments drop that decision into the lap of the executive office—the CEO. That lets the marketing and development operations both operate at the edge of their creativity.


      I've gone on too long. Hope some of what I said helps. The last thing I'll say is trust your years of successful fundraising and rely on the knowledge and experience you have gained, but always be ready to try new approaches and stay open to growth.


      By the way, I've spent time in Cape Town (South Africa I assume). What a wonderful place.


  2. nan says:

    Hmmmm, I don't really agree with this at all. Perhaps it's in the orgs I've worked but I've held both roles simultaneously as well as worked in agencies as the Dir Dev while someone else did marketing/PR.

    To me, both dev and m/c/pr are external voices of the agency – their words, actions, message need to be basically the same in order to keep harmony. Do we really talk that differently to donors than we do the general community? We shouldn't. After all, some members of the 'general community' may become donors one day. And donors will lapse back into the 'general community.'

    I think, while anyone in any profession holding two full time jobs at once is going to have trouble, DDs and M/C/PR professionals have far, far more in common than this article suggests.

    • Tony Poderis says:

      Thanks for your comment. Truly, you are an exception. And, of course, there would be other such exceptions. But, far and away, those exceptions, as many as there may be, are about as distant from the rule as could be. There are far more ill-fitting “hats” on those professionals out there than you know.

      However, while the two departments are external voices of an organization, to my way of thinking, and from extensive experience, their words, actions, and messages are mant times far from the same—for the reasons cited in the article. But, it’s not just the type of message, it’s the severe limits to which one person can carry the different messages to whom, what, and when.

      At every one of the perhaps thousands of fund-raising presentations I have made over forty years, I asked for a raising of hands of those who were then wearing both the development and marketing/PR/communications “hats.” Many always responded. A vast majority reported that they were having great difficulty in satisfying the respective demands for money to be raised, and for the organization to market and publicize its “product.” "Why isn't more money coming in," and "Why is our organization not known as well as it should be in the community," are two questions which should never be directed to one person for answers.

      One of the last “two-hatted” professionals whom I tutored, was literally in tears each time we met per week for six months. Her Executive Director and Board President were very unhappy that “not enough money was coming in,” and the Dean of Music was irate that his faculty was not getting nearly enough promotion and publicity for their recitals.Read again the article to see why that happened.

      “Climate making” by marketing, is very far removed from development “flying by the seat of its pants.”

      I know. I was one of the latter for 20 years as D of D for The Cleveland Orchestra. Respectively, we (marketing & development) played very well off one and another, but we could never be both at the same time.

      Gary did a great job selling tickets and warming up the community to our orchestra, then I got busy with fund-raising to take advantage of that education and participation. Two very different functions. There was never enough time for one of us to do our job as well as we wanted, much less have one doing both.

  3. Tony Poderis says:

    Anne: Yes indeed, from long and hard experience, such wearing of two (or more) hats often becomes a dilemma for the professional charged with such multiple, and diverse, duties. Of course, there are exceptions, and some folks may very well wear the two or more hats with a good degree of comfort. However, what I write and recommend must necessarily not deal with the exception. I have never believed that we can rely upon the exception for success, and that especially holds true in this instance.

    I am not an author of a book on granting foundation information. I will leave that special talent to you, and to the Foundation Center.

    And yes, the other Poderis is my wife, Joyce Braun Poderis. Joyce has over twenty years of non-profit fund-raising experience, and she has several articles posted here.

    Your wise counsel is critically important regarding the truism and necessity that fund-raising is absolutely a team effort. It cannot be in the hands, mostly or mainly, of one so-called fund-raiser.

    Any organization must have staff and volunteers agree to accept successful fund-raising as a critical, shared objective. Fund-raising is a shared responsibility, with the Development Department in the lead.

  4. anne borman says:

    You are so right! You understand the dilemma.

    I emailed someone else at this site, with the name Tony. I was appreciating that you publish a book or information on foundations. I publish a similar book in Missouri.

    Now I see that there is yet another Poderis who understands fund raising. You have my greatest respect!

    My background is in philanthropy. Later I returned to do independent research in marketing. I now see new income streams in marketing, a good thing.

    But I surely understand the pressure on the fund raising staff as they attempt to do all things.

    You know, in business, they would never ask one person to be the sole income producer for an entire operation. In a business, if there are eight people focused on producing a widget or service, there will be another eight selling those products or services.

    That is what we do to small nonprofits. We assign one fund raising executive to an entire organization! Maybe we offer them an admin staff member, maybe not.

    And then we add marketing! Good grief.

    Many thanks to the Poderis family.