Let’s Work Together – The Importance of a Good Relationship with the Program Department

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of a good relationship between the development and marketing departments.  Now I’d like to go a step further and explore the importance of a good relationship with the program department. Of course, you want a good relationship between all staff, but I am going to focus on marketing and development’s relationship with program.

Don’t create silos. Always remember that you are all working for the same mission.

Process vs. results
One key to a good relationship is to understand how the different departments work.

The program department focuses on the process – serving the people in need, while development and marketing are more concerned about the results – how you are actually making a difference.  It’s all important.

Sometimes there is a conflict between process and results, but you can’t have programs without fundraising and marketing, and you can’t raise money and awareness without strong programs. The departments need each other. 

Sharing success
The heart of fundraising and marketing messages is how you are making a difference for the people you serve.  The program staff is your connection to get stories, photos, and even videos to share with donors and potential donors.    

It can get tricky. Development and marketing need to be updated with client numbers and accomplishments, so they can share them with donors.  But program is busy serving clients and may not see that as a priority.

Plan ahead
You need to be respectful of the program staff’s time.  Don’t approach someone the day before your newsletter needs to go out and ask for a success story ASAP.

I always recommend nonprofits have an ongoing collection of stories, profiles, and photos to use, so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute.

If you get grant funding, you must work with program staff to determine what outcomes you will measure in the grant. Also, program needs to know when your grant reports are due, so they can give you results.

Again, don’t wait until the last minute.

Come up with a system
You need to come up with a system where the departments can work together without feeling overburdened.  This could mean sharing success stories at staff meetings; regular meetings between the departments to discuss stories, accomplishments, and funding needs; or program providing written monthly updates of client numbers and accomplishments. 

Seeing your programs in action
Development and marketing can sometimes be removed from the program work of your organization, especially if it’s done offsite.  If possible find ways for other staff to meet clients, visit your community center, or volunteer at your food bank.  

The more you know how the programs work, the easier it is to put this in human terms and share it with donors.  I used to work for a mentoring organization and staff were required to take the mentor training and encouraged to attend group activities with the mentors and mentees.  Doing that gave me a deeper understanding of the organization’s mission.

Working together
If you can create an atmosphere where the departments understand each other’s role, realize that program needs to share success stories with development and marketing, and know that those departments need to spend time seeing the programs in action, you will have a better chance of working together to accomplish your mission.

Here’s more on the importance of working together.
How is the relationship in your organization?
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