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Geoff Livingston 5 min read

Nonprofits Must Tear Down Their Marketing Silos

Since the last era of integrated communications during the 90s, we've seen two economic crashes and the rise of social (and now mobile) media.  Nonprofit marketing tactics have become siloed with different disciplines strategizing and executing programs autonomously. 

Nonprofits have become less effective communicators across the board.

Consider fundraising.  You have development directors that reach out to donors directly, the overarching house file receives solicitations, there may be a direct mail program, and finally social media based fundraising.  Are all of these efforts coordinated?

I recently released Marketing in the Round with Gini Dietrich that directly addresses how to break down these silos. We wrote the book because we thought today's marketing conversation needs to refocus on making all of the tactics work together. 


Consider the current nonprofit blogosphere over focus on social media. Based on statistics presented in the book, you can make some easy conclusions:

  • Social media represents a very small percentage of the overall marketing expenditure
  • Direct mail and purchased media (ads) by far represent the greatest  expenditure organizations make
  • While we the online marketing blogging community talk about social incessantly, half of the lead marketers haven't figured out how to bring the discipline into the fold.

We know that most organizations delegate social and mobile to a young person or an individual department. Maybe social reports to PR or maybe everyone does work in the same department, but their advocacy and fundraising campaigns are orchestrated independently. This siloed approach to nonprofit marketing is just the tip of the iceberg.

The organizational failure to understand the customer experience stymies donor development and advocacy.

Donors, volunteers and advocates don't consume one form of media or another. They don't go home and Facebook for three hours. They watch TV, read magazines, and yes, use their laptops, tablets and phones. Perhaps they listen to music or the radio in the background. 

A similar multimedia experience occurs at work, and in real life. Stakeholders' experiences with nonprofits is multifaceted. It surpasses singular media and information types.

Whether they are a high dollar donor or a passionate follower online, they experience multiple communications from your nonprofit. In the case of those that receive white glove service as high dollar donors, it might be worse. They could be getting hit up for solicitations and Facebook Likes at every corner.

The incredibly complex nonprofit stakeholder experience -- one that is bombarded with messaging from your nonprofit, other nonprofits and companies at every turn -- demands more from nonprofits that want to perform on an optimal level. This is why silos must come done, and integration needs to begin anew.


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Geoff Livingston (geofflivingston.com) is an author and marketing strategist, and serves as VP, Strategic Partnerships for Razoo. A former journalist, Livingston continues to write, and most recently he co-authored  “Marketing in the Round”, a book that shows you how to get more value from all your marketing and communications channels integrated together!

Photo via Hugh McCleod.