Reasons NOT to Combine Fundraising and Marketing Committees

Sections of this topic

    It’s common, especially for new or small nonprofits, to combine the responsibilities for fundraising and marketing into the same Board committee — after all, both functions include “getting the word out.” That’s what they have in common. But they have much more that is not in common.

    Part of a Fundraising Committee’s job is to ensure that the right words are customized to each appropriate funder — to one group of stakeholders. However, part of a Marketing Committee’s job is to ensure that the right words are customized to many different groups of stakeholders, e.g., current and future clients, collaborators, community leaders, suppliers, researchers, educators, etc. (Strong relationships with many stakeholders often results in more donations.)

    Combining the two Committees often results in doing neither role very effectively. So to do Fundraising and Marketing very well, they should be done separately. Here’s why:

    Responsibilities of a Good Marketing Committee

    The Committee follows this general sequence during the year. It might seem like a lot at first, but it’s actually working smarter, rather than harder.

    1. Clarify the unmet needs and wants in the community.
    2. Identify what results or outcomes would best meet each of those needs.
    3. Identify which programs/services would best achieve those results.
    4. Suggest which groups of people (markets) would be best to serve with programs.
    5. Help the Board select which programs to provide to which markets.
    6. Identify who potential collaborators would be to serve those markets.
    7. Identify what competitors might exist, direct and indirect, to serving each of those markets.
    8. Analyze which fee structures would be best for generating revenues to pay for the resources to develop and provide the services.
    9. Decide the best way to provide, or package, the services, e.g., it wouldn’t be best to provide day-care during the evening when most parents are home.
    10. Identify each of the stakeholders that would have an interest in your organization’s serving each of the separate markets. (Funders might be only one of those types of stakeholders.)
    11. Articulate the message or image that you’d like to cultivate with each of the markets and each of the groups of stakeholders.
    12. Identify the best means to reach each market, e.g., some like to listen to the radio and some like to read the newspaper.
    13. Identify how best to advertise and promote that message to each market and group of stakeholders.
    14. Articulate the overall image that you’d like stakeholders to have of the overall organization, and how you can cultivate that (via good Public Relations).
    15. Decide who is going to do what and by when to achieve the above.
    16. Put the answers to the above activities into a Marketing and Communications Plan, orient it to the Board and get it approved.
    17. Monitor implementation of that Plan.

    Responsibilities of a Good Development/Fundraising Committee

    The Committee follows this general sequence during the year.

    1. Work with the Finance Committee to understand the fundraising target, i.e., how much money needs to be raised, and determine (via the development plan) how much money could (based on history) likely be raised.
    2. Ensure that adequate prospect research is done to identify the best strategies for raising those funds across the different fundraising constituencies, e.g., from individuals, foundations, government and/or corporations.
    3. With the Marketing Committee, understand the needs of each fundraising constituency and what actions would be required to achieve maximum responses from each.
    4. Identify specific sources of funding across the different types of fundraising constituencies (individuals, foundations, government and corporations).
    5. Clarify how best to approach each source, e.g., many funders fund only certain types of grants for certain types of programs/results, and will accept proposals only during certain times of the year.
    6. Identify who is going to approach which funders, with what strategies, and in what timeframe.
    7. Establish the optimum system to manage grants and donations.
    8. Put the above in a Development/Fundraising Plan.
    9. Orient the Board to the Plan and get it approved.
    10. Train (willing) Board members about how to raise the funds from the (potential) sources that were identified and assigned to them.
    11. Support the implementation of the Development/Fundraising Plan.


    If each of the two major functions is combined into one committee, then it’s likely that each function will not be done nearly as well as if each function gets the attention that it deserves.

    Marketing might result in programs that just sounded like good ideas at the time, but that did not receive sufficient market research to verify if they were really needed. (There’s an old adage that, if you throw a ball against a wall and someone writes you a check to do that, that doesn’t mean it’s a program.)

    Or, marketing might result in pushing out the same message to every different group of stakeholders as if they all are the same. That doesn’t connect with the stakeholders — it just informs them that you think they are all the same.

    Fundraising might result in a small group of Board members who try to keep high-quality relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders — until they get so burned out, that they ask someone to send out the same grant proposal to 100s of funders — to just anyone who might read them.

    See the Free Management Library’s topics:


    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250.