Marketing and fundraising: Entirely different disciplines or two sides of the same coin?

The answer to this question depends on whom you ask. Some people believe that nonprofit marketing and branding are killing fundraising (a bit extreme). On the other hand, both disciplines must inform and inspire, involve art and science (and often overlap on the science), share audiences, and require many similar skills (people skills, organization, creativity).

Depending on the size of your nonprofit and the resources at your disposal, you may have an individual or team for each area or one person may be wearing both hats. If you have the luxury of marketing and fundraising as separate entities, the best scenario is for both teams to work closely together. It should be easier to “work together” if you’re just one person.

When nonprofit marketing and fundraising operate from the same priorities, everyone within the organization understands what outreach is happening, can better coordinate themes and timing, and can increase the impact of all communications with supporters and donors.

Maybe it’s the change that has come with social media, but marketing and fundraising are more aligned than at odds — or, at least, they should be to find success in either area. While the two roles are still different functionally, here are the ways in which both do (or should) co-exist.

Shared Message

Whether you want to look at it from the marketer’s or fundraiser’s perspective, what is your organization’s message all about? It’s about the work your organization does, the people you serve, how you are changing lives, and how others can help. Nonprofit marketers are responsible for how this message is conveyed through print materials, your website, and social media — all of which support the work of fundraisers in cultivating support for your mission.

As development professionals do their work, they create a larger audience for your nonprofit’s message — more social media followers, more email subscribers, etc. This audience expects to see the same underlying message in these communication channels as they received from the fundraising side. And when they do, you gain their trust and cultivate loyalty — a win for everyone.

Compelling Stories

Compelling success stories are critical to both nonprofit marketing and fundraising success. They increase awareness of the important work your organization does; they engage your audience of donors, volunteers, and other supporters; and they inspire and motivate people to act and give.

Here’s how a compelling story works for both facets of communication:

  • Your marketing team publishes a high-impact story on your organization’s website and shares it on social media, where donors and other supporters read it and engage with it.
  • Fundraisers use the story in an email or print newsletter article that goes out to your organization’s donors to show the impact of their gifts and encourage them to give again.
  • The story is shared with Board members to help them be more effective messengers for your nonprofit, cultivating new supporters and donors.
  • The story forms the foundation of an upcoming direct mail appeal, emphasizing the impact a donor can make and inspiring them with what more the organization can accomplish with additional support.


If marketing and fundraising in your organization aren’t both centered on the donor, you’re doing both wrong.

Read over the points in the infographic below, the first time with marketing in mind and again with a fundraising focus.


We can all agree that the donor-centric approach is more effective in motivating people to support and donate to your nonprofit. And it takes this donor-centric perspective on the part both nonprofit marketers and fundraisers to be successful in reaching your goals.

Read “Is Your Nonprofit Organization Donor-Centric?”


Nonprofit marketing and fundraising aren’t all that different when you get to the heart of the matter. Both functions must gain support for your organization’s mission, whether it’s awareness and advocacy or financial. When both areas work towards this primary goal, the whole nonprofit organization wins.


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