Marketing vs. Fundraising: Knowing the Difference

March 7, 2017

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that marketing and fundraising are one in the same. For years, people in the nonprofit realm would refer to the creative side of marketing as “communications,” because promotion — one of the “4Ps” of marketing — is key to raising awareness about an organization and its cause. This line of thought, although understandable, is far from the truth.

Part of the misconception lies in the fact that these two competencies have overlapping components. Marketing and fundraising, each vital to the nonprofit industry, can be described as art and science. The art of fundraising involves distinguishing, petitioning and retaining donors. The science of both has to do with the components utilized to manage and bolster a nonprofit; both marketing and fundraising have overlapping analytical goals that keep an organization from falling through the cracks.

Marketers have one primary focus — mass communication to donors, volunteers and service recipients. Conversely, those who fundraise use one-on-one communication to network with major companies, foundations and contributors.

As a fundraiser, it’s important to be able to build long-term relationships with benefactors. Once these relationships are established, fundraisers must keep in contact with donors and look for opportunities to connect them to the nonprofit. Being a fundraiser requires versatile people skills, exceptional time management and the ability to handle multiple projects at once.

While all those abilities are equally important when marketing for a nonprofit, marketers in particular need to be precise with their planning and writing. They should be able to put themselves in the public’s shoes and predict challenges before they arise and become complex issues.

Overall, strategy is king. In the nonprofit world, staying ahead of the curve in one’s traditional and contemporary marketing endeavors is the way to not only survive, but also to remain a credible charity in whose mission people can invest and believe.

Although the work of marketers and fundraisers overlaps, it’s important to note that marketers create the promotional collateral that fundraisers need in order to garner attention and support for their organization. Additionally, marketers are charged with generating reports that measure the successes and failures of a fundraiser’s efforts.

That being said, marketing and fundraising go hand-in-hand. A fundraiser will fizzle if there is no one in the background to ensure the public is aware of the nonprofit and its mission. Likewise, marketers rely on fundraisers to produce the monetary means for an organization. Without dedicated patrons, a nonprofit will struggle to stay afloat in the sea of worthy charities.

So, although marketing and fundraising efforts are disparate, they rely on one another. Our advice? Tap into both for the most well rounded approach, but treat each as the unique practice it was meant to be.