The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Smarter Together: Build Your Team of Brainstorming Partners

Brainstorming Team

It’s hard not to think of September as back-to-school time, as children and teens get back to the books. That’s true for me even now, so many years later!

Like you, I’m deep into my work. And probably like you, I’m never satisfied staying right where I am. Learning engages my mind, heart, and creativity.

Last September, fueled by “back-to-school envy,” I wrote a post outlining the five main ways I learn. But looking back at that post today, I realize that I left out my top method: learning from peers like you.

There’s no better resource out there than fellow fundraisers and nonprofit communicators who are doing, learning, and retuning the same type of campaigns, techniques, and messages you are. In fact, I do everything I can to nurture as many brainstorming partners as possible.

Here’s how you can build your team of brainstorming partners:

  1. Define what kind of partnership is most helpful to you. Do you want help with specific skills or insights that you need help with? What do you have to offer, and who is most likely to benefit? What structure do you have in mind: formal or informal? Emailing each other for feedback on a specific fundraising email or campaign? Weekly or monthly calls? Or something else entirely?
  1. Find prospective partners. Start with a) the folks behind campaigns you respect and learn the most from (nothing to lose); and b) those with whom you connect in face-to-face meetings or online communities.
  1. Introduce yourself. You’re the one who wants something, so start a conversation and learn more about your prospective partner. As with any effective “marketing campaign,” look for the connection between you—where do your wants, habits, and preferences overlap? Then talk more about that topic.
  1. Invite your colleague to be your brainstorming partner. Be clear about what you’re looking for and what you have to offer. You may want to start by asking if you can run a specific message or email draft by your prospective partner before you introduce the idea of doing the same for each other on an ongoing basis.
  1. Build in the commitment to ongoing fine-tuning as the two of you discover what works best over time. 
  1. Give as much as (or more than) you get. Sharing what you know is a great way to reinforce it, and it feels great.
    If you’re fearful of the “competition,” simply avoid cultivating relationships with fundraisers from organizations that engage the same group of donors on the same issue or cause. You have far more to gain than you have to lose.

  1. Thank your brainstorming partner in words and actions, as frequently as you can. Or, if she doesn’t turn out to be a productive partner, diplomatically put an end to that relationship asap. 
  1. Identify another complementary brainstorming partner, and repeat.

Start building your team of brainstorming partners. I guarantee it’ll be one of your best learning experiences ever. Back to school—for all of us!

Also read: Back to School: How to Stay Energized, Relevant, and at the Top of Your Game

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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