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?
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.
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
- A Development Director Needs More Than a "Smile And a Shoeshine," But It's a Good Start
- Develop Your Fund-Raising Plan with Consensus
- Developing a Communications Strategy For the Development Operation
- Designing a Communications Plan to Enhance Your Fund-Raising Campaign
Those are my views about the mixing of fund-raising responsibilities with marketing/communications/public relations duties. I welcome your comments.