FEDERATION LEADERS OF TOP NON-PROFITS SHARE INSIGHTS & CHALLENGES – PART 2
Earlier this year, we hosted a Federation Leaders’ Knowledge Exchange. It was a great night of valuable conversations and insights from key leaders of federated non-profits (these are non-profits with national, provincial and/or local offices, each operating as separate legal entities but most commonly under one brand/banner).
Leading up to the event, we asked each of the participants to share their top three challenges in marketing or philanthropy within a federation. Before we knew it we had compiled nine key themes.
Here at Ramp, we frequently work on public awareness or brand campaigns led by national or provincial federations. So the challenges we uncovered were certainly not a surprise. In the first part of this two-blog series, we examined five of these themes. The four remaining themes that were raised are COMPLEXITY, COORDINATED FUNDRAISING, AUTONOMY, and the PACE OF CHANGE. Read on for more about these themes and how to overcome them.
Four of the top challenges faced by federated non-profits and how to tackle them:
There’s no question about it, federations face many different levels of complexity. Challenges such as distributed leadership teams, geographical differences, difficult to navigate governance structures and protocols, a multitude of funding sources, diverse stakeholders, varying service delivery frameworks and more can make every task seem overwhelming. If you are launching a marketing or fundraising initiative, we recommend taking a larger view and getting strategic buy-in early on. Nationwide consultations can help to ensure that some of these complexities are considered when strategies are being formulated. And, in the face of complexity, sometimes just getting started can be the biggest hurdle. Begin with a minimum viable product and iterate and adapt, based on what you’ve learned.
Picture this – a top potential national corporate donor receives a proposal from a local office to support a cause resulting in a $10,000 donation. But then a national proposal for $150,000 is turned down on the basis that a donation has already been provided to that charity! Unfortunately, this scenario is common within federations. We recommend having prospect clearance protocols and guidelines so that local offices can focus on local fundraising and leave national counterparts to handle national prospects. Cloud-based relationship management software, like Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge can improve the tracking and coordination of leads and donors across large organizations. And fundraising events? Try taking a truly national vantage point to scale fundraising and create economies of scale around event execution and marketing.
Embracing the spirit of cooperation that includes a level of autonomy across a federation can be difficult, but most things worth doing are. Too much autonomy at a local level is guaranteed to erode your brand, resulting in lower awareness and recall from your audience. On the other hand, your local offices genuinely understand your brand (not just what you do, but also how to best speak to local audiences) and have the powerful community level relationships that make them enthusiastic and effective champions of the cause. The trick is to establish clear rules of engagement. Communicate do’s and don’ts clearly in your brand guide, and keep the channels of communication open for local offices to consult with national or provincial offices when they are looking to customize the delivery of brand messages.
Pace of change
We mentioned patience earlier and it bears repeating. Transforming a brand or synchronizing brand messages across a country is a daunting endeavor when there are dozens or even hundreds of organizations that need to align and adapt. It’s never going to be perfect, but don’t let that stop you from trying. Not everybody will be likely to move at the same pace so lean on early adopters to demonstrate success and, with perseverance, others will follow suit in time. For this reason, it is imperative to plan brand initiatives and campaigns with a long-term view. That means careful consideration of the strategy first, before jumping into tactics and developing creative ideas that have staying power and can remain fresh for two, three or even four years.
As thought leaders on this topic, we are committed to creating even more opportunities for this type of valuable information exchange among marketing and philanthropy leaders. If you are an executive in this field and are interested in learning more or joining our Federation Leaders’ Knowledge Exchange group, send us a note or subscribe to our newsletter.