5 Key Things You Should Always Share with Your Agency Partner

Date Published
12/03/2019
Author
Debbie Merlino

If you’re engaged with a direct response fundraising agency, you’ll benefit from their best ideas, and will surely have an easy relationship the more they know about you, how you like to work, and what lays ahead for your organization.

Below are the 5 Key Things You Should Always Share with Your Agency Partner:

  1. What is your goal for the relationship?
    Beyond specific fundraising goals, what is it that you hope to gain from the relationship?  Are you looking for someone to educate and coach your Development team?  Do you prefer a partner with a collaborative approach?  Or do you want someone to simply execute on your behalf?

    Is this your first agency relationship?  If so, this is important information to share.  Without it, your agency partner may make some wrong assumptions about your working relationship and your expectations of them.  On the other hand, if you’ve worked with an agency before, share that too — along with what worked well in that relationship and what you found to be challenging.  While every relationship is different, knowing past “sore spots” can help ensure for a smoother road ahead and tee you both up for success.

  2. What’s going on in your organization beyond the confines of the Development Team / Agency relationship?
    Has your organization been in the news lately (either positively or negatively)?  Are there new initiatives or a capital campaign coming down the pike?  Is a re-org in the offing?

    An early head’s up may spark new ideas or recommendations from your agency.  At the very least, there’ll be a shared understanding of what’s happening inside the greater organization.

  3. Does anyone else – beyond the team you work with directly – have influence over the projects you’re involved with?
    Perhaps once an appeal is approved by the Development team it must go to Marketing for a final review.  Knowing this early on will allow your agency to build a project schedule that accommodates your processes.

    Is a vocal Board member particularly in favor of (or opposed to) the project?  While this likely won’t have an impact on the campaign itself, being aware of these sensitivities can only be helpful in the long run.

  4. What are your organization’s sacred cows?
    Are there programs – or processes – that are going to remain as is despite even the most strongly-made case for change?  If so, let your agency partner know at the outset.  With this information in hand, they can focus their efforts on areas where real change is possible, rather than barking up the wrong tree.

    A strong agency partner – while always being honest with you about the where the biggest gains are possible – should be able to pivot and provide alternative solutions.

  5. Is there a place where processes/schedules are likely to hit a bump in the road or break down?
    Maybe you know right from the get-go that the contract approval process is going to be protracted.  Have an honest conversation with your agency right up front.  You’ll both benefit by your first project together being a successful one.  Nothing gets in the way of success like a rushed project and corner-cutting in the hopes of hitting an impossible deadline.

    Or perhaps your Executive Director wants to review copy only at the final art stage but is notorious for requesting multiple rounds of edits.

    Are you short-staffed, or do you have a new member on your database team, increasing the likelihood that files may be late or that a little extra intervention may be necessary between the agency and data teams?
    Knowing all this gives your agency the ability to build some extra time into the schedule.

Like any relationship, your relationship with your agency partner should be based on trust, as well as open, honest and frequent communication.

We want to hear from you:  Looking back, what do you wish you had shared with your agency (or was shared with you)?

Debbie Merlino
About the Author:
Debbie Merlino
President, Agency Division

As President of Agency Services, Debbie is responsible for overall client satisfaction. She works to ensure AFG’s winning strategies are being shared throughout the organization for the benefit of all our clients. Debbie is frequently out on the road sharing insights with others and listening to your challenges so we can develop solutions.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I get to meet the best people and hear their stories. Hardly anyone says they planned to work in development. Learning how our clients found themselves in this profession and hearing the stories of the people they serve is inspirational.

If you weren’t at AFG, what would you be doing?

Attempting the life of a freelance journalist, working in a bookstore, and/or doing a podcast for my own enjoyment.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

Making people laugh. It’s thrilling! Especially when done purposefully and I’m on stage ; ) I also enjoy yoga and a well-crafted cocktail.

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