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Collaboration is Not Just a Buzz Word

Every year there is a different saying or buzz word that everyone is using. For the past few years, we've been busy living through a pandemic, working from home, and then adjusting to new hybrid and remote schedules. We may call the terms something different, but one thing we all have in common is things have changed.

With remote work, some of the collaborations we once had turned back into silos—and it's time to resurrect the collaborative behaviors that got us to where we are. First, the definition of silo is a system, process, department, etc. that operates in isolation from others. I don't know about you, but this doesn't sound like an effective way to operate, and it also does not sound good for our donors. In a blog written by Scott Millar, he explains “collaboration” this way:

Collaboration has three parts, which I call dynamics:

  1. Defining Purpose – this is why you are collaborating

  2. Connecting People – bringing people together so they can interact effectively

  3. Creating Ideas – using imagination and creativity to build new thinking

I like this framework of three collaboration dynamics, one can not exist without the other and be collaborative.

With a few quick and simple steps, you can be back on your way to building strong, collaborative relationships with your partners:

  • Find your natural partners, i.e., annual giving, development communications, events, principal giving, planned giving, and of course, school and units (or faculties as I have recently learned from Canada).

  • Build a plan for each unit you are working with. Determine how you should be working together. For example, development communications are regularly developing stories and content that can be repurposed in a thoughtful and meaningful way. Discuss how and where you might be able to highlight a story. A heartwarming story that was shared in a digital campaign newsletter could also be shared in an endowed fund report or an impact report or the story could be shared in person at an event. The most important thing to remember is to discuss and strategize and keep everyone on the same page. We do not want to overdo or overshare our content, we want to keep it fresh and inviting.

  • Share a calendar with your partners. A calendar allows all the partners to see what going out to your donors digitally, through the mail and in person. Let us try to not totally overwhelm our donors with too much stuff.

  • Annual giving partnerships are necessary. Do you know the solicitation schedule of the annual giving team? You should! Knowing the schedule will help you determine when NOT to drop certain things via mail or email that might get lost in someone’s inbox. Knowing this schedule will also help you determine the best time to send a thank you note or video or invitation. Make a plan with the annual giving team, you should be working together to steward your donors based on behavior, first time donors, milestones—be a part of the team.

  • You should be besties with the principal giving team. Meet regularly, know what large gifts are in the pipeline, and begin planning now for when those gifts close so you are ready to hit the ground running with your stewardship efforts from the start.

  • Regardless of the structure of your organization, you should collaborate with the events team and contribute to strategy. Use your events to reinforce messaging while also showing impact to your donors.

  • The message here is, do not try to go alone. Take advantage of your partners and elevate your program together. The more individuals focused on your donors means better relationships and more meaningful engagements.

At the DRG Group, we believe collaboration is a key component to your success. That's why we're dedicating our October webinar to teaching you how to create a successful annual giving/donor relations collaboration. Join us October 11 at 1 pm ET as we discuss annual giving recognition best practices (backed by tons of samples and a case study or two) and take a deep dive into collaboration with annual giving and data partners to create programs that are efficient, effective, and donor centric.

Christine McGuire is an Associate at the DRG Group—we hope you enjoyed her post! Learn more about Christine here—and stay tuned to meet more of the amazing group of Associates we've welcomed to our growing team.


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