imageSmart fundraising is no longer a one-way stream of information, where organizations tell would-be donors whatever will motivate them to give.

Fundraising has become a conversation. 

There’s just one problem: In many nonprofits, especially the larger and more professional ones, the people actually charged with conversing with donors have little incentive to do so.

They’re typically found in the Donor Relations department, and they report to managers outside of Fundraising. So while fundraisers may want to nurture rich two-way conversations with donors, the people who answer the phones, emails, and complaint letters would rather eat cockroaches drowned in mop water than engage in conversations. And because they’re in a different department, they’re being measured for efficiency and other very non-conversational skills.

So you have a Talking Department (Fundraising) and a Listening Department (Donor Relations) working in different silos and holding different goals and conflicting philosophies. Sounds like a mental illness, doesn’t it?

Add to that an independently operating Marketing Department (which, for the sake of the metaphor, we’ll call the Yelling at Random Strangers Department) and the Online Department (or the Navel-Gazing Department). If this nonprofit were a person, he’d be locked up!

Nonprofits that allow bureaucratic turf to get in the way of listening to and serving donors won’t survive the change in how donors interact with their charities. When donors get a taste of the rich, respectful relationship they can have with a nonprofit that has its organizational act together, they’re going to drop those who can’t make the change.

The time to explode your silos is now.

imageJeff Brooks is creative director at Merkle, a direct-response agency serving the nonprofit world.  He blogs at the Donor Power Blog.