Paul Spence, Guest Author  ●  10/16/2019

Communication and Collaboration with Your Marketing Agency


Do you talk too much? Do you talk enough with your Marketing Agency? As a former Executive Director and now VP of Development, I used to have the attitude that my marketing agency works for me. I’ve come to learn that my marketing agency works with me.

When I broke down our silos and began to involve our agency, TrueSense Marketing, in all aspects of our development plan, they surprised me with a new level of passion and interest.

Side note: If you open the floodgates of communication and collaboration, and your marketing agency isn’t excited — get a new agency.


The two steps to get the most out of your partnerships with your donor marketing agency:


Step 1: Communication

City Gospel Mission in Cincinnati has four main causes: Food & Shelter, Recovery, Jobs, and At-Risk Youth. Traditionally, our agencies had little involvement in the Youth Banquet. It’s an event, why would they? When I shared the full calendar of banquet activities with TrueSense, and we began discussing possibilities that lined up with them, a new creative world opened up.

My first surprise was their interest in experiencing it. So, over the last two years, we have scheduled story and photo collection dates around the Youth Banquet, when members of TrueSense can come and volunteer. I loved the idea of another set of eyes on it, adding more-than-qualified volunteers, and exposing TrueSense to other activities in the ministry.

Today, we are discussing how we can make the Youth Banquet a direct-response campaign. Can we use our banquet theme and expand to email, digital, and direct mail campaigns? We are still exploring the idea — together.

I would encourage you to provide collaboration opportunities to your agency and communicate more than you normally would. When you are sending an email to your team about a large estate blessing, for instance, include your agency in the celebration. When you are considering the next new technology, include your agency in your thinking.


Step 2: Permission

Give your agency permission to give you their honest advice. Sometimes your agency will support your thinking and go down the avenue that they think you want them to go because they want to be a good vendor and keep your business.

However, I’ve told TrueSense that one way they can keep my business is to be honest with me. I’ve given them permission to tell me my next idea is crazy, or worries them, or may hurt other activities. Nonprofit leaders need to consider all perspectives before launching into something new and need sound counsel. Your agency can provide that. 

Widening our communication and giving our marketing agency permission to give advice has created broader thought and better quality of materials. TrueSense has become an extension of our team, and I love it. Last summer we held our Annual Development Retreat and invited our agency to join us. Two TrueSense partners joined the development team for a full day of planning. The whole team came up with fantastic ideas and new ways to acquire and cultivate donors. It was awesome to experience the rich ideas that were generated in the room. We would have missed two energetic, creative pieces if we had not extended an invitation to our marketing agency.


I no longer call TrueSense Marketing our marketing agency, but our marketing partner.


Paul Spence is the Vice President of Development at City Gospel Mission.

Paul had nine years of experience as Executive Director of a homeless mission before following a passion for development to Cincinnati’s City Gospel Mission. Since 2007, he has led the Development Team to connect God’s people with the Mission’s needs. Paul and his wife, Monica, have five children and live outside of Cincinnati, Ohio.


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