A popular reporting model for marketing and communications offices, especially those at smaller institutions, has been to report to the vice president in charge of fundraising. However, with colleges more dependent than ever on tuition revenue, there is an increasing need for marketing offices to oversee branding efforts that differentiate their institutions and to develop marketing strategies designed to enroll and retain more students. Consequently, more CMOs are now reporting to the president, and are responsible for branding, image building and recruitment marketing, in addition to fundraising marketing.
With this changing relationship between marketing and IA, and marketing’s increased responsibility for motivating a wider array of audiences to action, how can marketing make sure the development office—and donors—don’t get brushed aside?
Regardless of who reports where, marketing and IA can use these three strategies to keep their partnership strong.
1) Synergize research. The most successful marketing campaigns—and fundraising efforts—are grounded in research. However, there are rarely enough resources available to fund all of the research both areas need. At Meredith, we solved this issue by partnering with IA to ensure that the research we conducted for our new branding campaign would also benefit donor communications. Not only did the data gathered help shape donor messaging, it also raised interesting questions that we discussed with major prospects as part of a feasibility study about whether the college was ready to launch a comprehensive fundraising campaign. As a result of partnering on the research, there is a synergy between our branding and fundraising campaigns that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
2) Integrate messaging. At Meredith, there’s a deep integration between the messages we use for student recruitment, image building, alumnae communications and fundraising. Whether we are communicating to prospective students or alumnae, our materials convey the message that Meredith College is “Going Strong.” With the name “Beyond Strong,” our fundraising campaign builds on the Going Strong message to inspire donors to give to initiatives that will take the college to the next level. North Carolina State University has also achieved this kind of integration by using “Think and Do” to enhance the university’s brand image, and “Think and Do the Extraordinary” to motivate donors.
3) Share information and—ideally—a staff member. Having access to timely information is critical to successfully connecting with audiences. This is true for a gift officer sitting down with a major prospect, as well as for a marketing writer developing content for a web page. A shared staff member can help bridge any gaps between marketing and IA by getting to know the information that both areas need. At Meredith, our campaign communications manager reports dually to marketing and IA. Her office is physically housed with the marketing team, where her presence serves as a daily reminder to the marketing staff of the importance of fundraising communications. She also attends and actively participates in key meetings with both staffs, and as a result, both staffs see her as one of their own. This partnership has led to the development and implementation of highly successful donor marketing and communication plans.
By keeping these three strategies in mind, marketing and IA can forge a strong partnership that will yield institutional success.
Kristi Eaves-McLennan is executive director of marketing for Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C.