Your nonprofit is only as strong as its leadership. That’s just as true in marketing and communications as it is in any other function. In our July webinar, Alyssa Conrardy sat down with Caitlin FitzSimons, Director of Marketing at OneGoal National, and Chloe Lahre, Director of External Affairs at OneGoal Chicago, and they talked about the habits of highly effective nonprofit marketing and communications leaders and their teams.
This webinar centered on commitment #7 of the Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto, which states: “We will ensure marketing is overseen at the highest level of our organizations and contributed to by everyone on our teams.”
During the webinar, Alyssa, Caitlin and Chloe discussed why it’s so important for strong marketing leadership to include the input of their teams across their organization. Here, we provide a recap of the webinar.
What Caitlin, Chloe and Alyssa covered:
- What effective marketing and communications leadership looks like
- How a marketing and communications team should be structured
- How and when the C-Suite and non-marcomm staff should get involved in marketing
- How OneGoal has structured their national and regional marketing functions to work together seamlessly
- What you can do to take your nonprofit’s marketing leadership to the next level
Webinar highlights and timestamps:
- 6:08: Introduction to Commitment #7, “We will ensure marketing is overseen at the highest level of our organizations and contributed to by everyone on our teams.”
- 7:10: The best case scenario for marketing and communications leadership
- 12:00: Where to begin when seeking to improve your organization’s marketing leadership
- 15:33: Q&A with Caitlin and Chloe on how marketing and communications leadership works at OneGoal
- 45:40: Audience Q&A
- 1:04:18: Resources to help you go deeper
What makes a marcomm leader effective?
Caitlin: In my role, relationship-building is so incredibly important. I’ve spent so much time over the last few years getting to know our regions and getting to know the regional staff that I work with. You can’t work together effectively if you don’t have that trust, and building that trust and the belief in each others’ areas of expertise takes time. Being mostly remote, I’ve had to be creative about what that means with the people I don’t see on a regular basis. I invest the time in getting to know the people I work with and their needs.
Chloe: I agree that relationship-building is so important, and I would add that flexibility is really critical. We have to be able to flex and adapt to each team’s priorities and needs. Our teams are all on the ground working with our students, and we listen to them and receive their input on what they’re planning and make adjustments to move forward and be effective.
How do you go about getting those who sit in non-marcomm roles to recognize the role they play in advancing marketing?
Alyssa: Everyone on your team should contribute to marketing and communications in some shape or form. For many organizations, though, if marketing and communications is getting any buy-in at all it’s a win, and getting others involved can feel like a pipedream. OneGoal has been really successful in this in some ways, and I want to know more about how people contribute to marcomm at all levels on both the national and regional scale.
Caitlin: It goes back to being integrated into the work their doing. Less of a thing they have to do on the side, but more something that actually drives their work forward. I’ve been doing a lot more listening, I’ve been trying to have the regions share their priorities with me first, then show them how the stuff we do at national fits in with that. Then, it doesn’t feel like an extra thing, it’s something that’s aligned and will make their lives easier at the end of the day. Chloe actually just did a project on this that I’m going to let her talk more about.
Chloe: For us, it comes down to putting marcomm in the context of what other staff are doing. For a clear example of a way we recently did this, every year, we create a video to premiere at our gala. It’s a big part of our fundraising strategy and is important for that team, but it can feel like a big ask for the program teams because it’s not technically part of their job. I need their support to make a strong video. This year, I tried to be really intentional about how I built that investment. I knew early on I wanted to focus on a classroom, so I enlisted my colleague David and looped him in early in the process so he could give input on my strategy, select a classroom to film in and review interview questions. Throughout, I was able to build connections between what he’s working on and his priorities for building engagement at the school, and also what he’s personally passionate about. So, he was excited about it, invested in the filming, and it ended up being an effective strategy because of that.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for taking marketing leadership to the next level?
Caitlin: It’s important to meet people where they’re at. As someone whose full-time job is marketing and communications, that is my area of expertise, but it’s not the area of expertise for the people I’m supporting. What causes a lack of engagement is not really a lack of interest, but probably a lack of understanding or a fear that they’re supposed to be more of an expert than they are. So I try to make our tools as easy to use as possible and our work and our team as approachable as possible. I want marcomm to be a partner who has a skillset they don’t have and they don’t have to have because we can help elevate their work.
Chloe: From a regional perspective, I would recommend staying aware of the priorities across your team. I’ve been pushing myself in our annual planning to understand what the program team is focused on and what the development team is focused on, so when it’s time for me to put my ideas forward, I can relate it to what they’re doing and weigh the importance of different projects and pipelines. That makes marcomm an element of everything.
Our next webinar, “Build Better Partnerships Inside & Outside the Nonprofit Sector with Marketing,” featuring Abby Robinson from Atlas Corps and Christina Allen-Crowder from Prevent Blindness Texas, will be held August 8 at 2 p.m. ET. The webinar will be focused on Commitment #8, “We will use our brands and marketing to build partnerships and advance the broader causes we’re focused on.” See you then!