Overcoming internal politics and breaking down silos

It takes time and money to engage people to support a charity – whether they are donors, fundraisers, volunteers, campaigners or members. The ability to retain and grow the value of existing supporters has never been more important.  One of the most effective ways to do this is to encourage supporters to get involved in more than one way. This requires an integrated approach across teams.

There is some solid theory about the benefits of integration and lots of evidence of good practice: the well documented Sightsavers ‘Million miracles’ campaign with Communications and Fundraising working closely to deliver multi-channel engagement, huge social media reach and £30m income by 2017 (they are over halfway there at the time of writing); Breakthrough’s cross-business partnership with M&S with over £20m raised to between 2001 and 2015. Despite this, plenty of charities are still made up of disparate silos; supporters ‘belong to’ a silo and are ‘protected’ by whoever manages that silo. Opportunities to build loyalty and maximise the value of relationships are missed.

Why does this happen? In my experience it is down to attitudes; different teams refusing to work together or putting tactical, team-specific goals ahead of organisational objectives. That is why it is so important for work to be done upfront to get the key personnel to put the politics aside and recognise why integration can deliver better results. An integrated approach can improve loyalty, increase value from relationship, strenghten campaigning voice, enable holistic partnerships to be built with companies and drive brand via better quality communications.

Once charity teams recognise this then they are over the biggest hurdle. The practicalities of delivering an integrated approach are not easy but once the attitudes are right you are well on the way. When launching Action for Children’s Neglect appeal during my in-house days this was certainly my experience. Once we managed to unify everyone with a shared goal we were able to tackle the practacilities – proposition, key messages, communication plans, data management etc.

The Neglect appeal was issues led and evidence based (Policy and Services), we had a hard news story to launch it (PR and comms), it was used to engage individuals and companies (Community, Corporate and Individual Fundriaising), we built in opportunities to become a campaigner (Campiagns team) or a volunteer fundraiser (Community Fundraising) and made our brand come alive (Marketing team).

In the first three months we raised £750k, tested and leant about a different messages and channels, significantly increased the pool of campaigners, built awareness and differentiated ourselves from competitors.

The key to success is recognising when internal politics are holding you back and then being big enough to try and overcome this by building a shared goal.

 This piece above was first published as a blog by Third Sector Magazine.