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August 16, 2019

Boost Your Agency Partnership: Plan Smart from the Start


Relationship building and smart planning may seem like two distinct exercises. But when it comes to getting the most from your agency relationship, the two really go hand in hand. Here’s why:

Every nonprofit wants to work with an agency that is truly a strategic partner. Many look for a team that feels like an extension of their internal marketing staff. Does that sound like you?

Your ideal agency team should be made up of creative, strategic problem solvers who thrive on helping you reach your donor marketing goals. The secret to success is planning and communication. 


Here are 4 strategies that will help you engage your agency on a deeper level and, in turn, help them understand your world and overarching organizational goals. 

  1. Know where you’re at and share it with your agency.
    This sounds simple enough, but in addition to understanding your programs, services, and donor file makeup, it’s important for your agency (and you) to know how you are perceived in your community of stakeholders, whether local or global. Have you gone through any expansions that have been met with opposition? Have you received accolades for solving a thorny problem? Are there organizations doing similar work with whom you collaborate or compete? This kind of information amplifies your agency’s ability to develop a case for support and build compelling fundraising offers. Bonus points if you invite your agency to participate in your radiothons, fundraising galas, or community events so they can experience your community relations firsthand.
  2. Review your organizational budget with your agency.
    At least once a year, share with them the same reports the board uses to monitor the financial health of your organization. Make sure your agency is aware of the role their programs and services play in your overall funding picture. Invite them to ask questions and provide feedback. Bonus points if you invite a member of your agency team to a board meeting.
  3. Share your strategic plan for the next 3+ years with your agency.
    Take time to review any plans you have for future growth in facilities, programs, or business enterprise. A new building, a thrift store, or the addition of a trade school may or may not directly impact the day-to-day work your agency does for you, for instance, but they do have an impact on how your community sees you and the needs of your organization. Bonus points if you invite your agency to participate in your strategic planning process.
  4. Collaborate with your agency to build a donor engagement strategy that focuses on more than simply growing the number of donors on your file.
    Mindful, long term file growth is based on multiple factors such as budget, market size, age of your organization, and desired pace of growth. Analytics are the keystone of long-term life growth. Analytics ensure your donor marketing is on the right track and identify opportunities to make adjustments to guarantee continued results. A healthy donor file will feed your middle and major donor pipeline by increasing the year-over-year giving of individual donors. Bonus points if your strategic plan includes long-term value at the point of donor acquisition.


Whether you are in a new agency relationship or have been working with the same team for many years, adapting the mindset that “iron sharpens iron” is always a wise move. When clients and agencies encourage and challenge one another, great things will happen!

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