Your mission-driven organization hires fundraising experts, communications professionals, and event planners to engage your audiences. In addition, your nonprofit may enlist executives, content specialists, academic experts, and others to communicate directly with supporters. All of these people work tirelessly to achieve your nonprofit’s mission. But are they using your systems and technology as effectively as they can to inform, connect and inspire?

Given the importance of highly engaged audiences to your nonprofit’s mission, it is ironic that no single person has the job of optimizing and coordinating the technology, systems and data that your various teams use for external communications. Why not? Typically none of the departments primarily tasked with outreach have the ability or desire to spend their budget on a CTO or platform “product” manager. Departmental goals almost always align them toward short-term results, generating positive outcomes within the context of a fiscal year, rather than “owning” the entire organization’s long-term planning for audience engagement systems.

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The consequences of not having a marketing CTO

You have a great team, and you are already creating great content. Yet without a Chief Technical Officer focused on evolutionary improvement of your holistic outreach capabilities, it’s likely that your nonprofit suffers from one (or many) of the following problems:

  • Over-spending on outreach systems across the organization
  • Insufficient usage of A/B testing; optimization; and automated and personalized content 
  • Limited coordination and integration of systems and data across departments 
  • Inconsistent use of taxonomies, naming conventions, and contact record management
  • Limited technical expertise and organizational perspective to help suggest, vet, and introduce new technologies to boost your efficiency and impact 
  • No formal cost sharing agreements between departments (or awkward, informal arrangements that are suboptimal and don’t reflect actual value to individual teams)
  • No long-term planning for the graceful sunsetting and replacement of shared systems 

How a marketing CTO helps you do more (and better)

A CTO focused on your marketing and engagement platform helps raise the tide of engagement, which lifts all boats charged with outreach—from fundraising to communications to program teams. They coordinate across departments to ensure that shared systems are optimally configured and integrated to meet business needs. They also support long-term budgeting, and ensure your organization makes smart use of new technologies that boost your impact while saving time and money. They do all of this by developing (and managing against) a long-term roadmap that’s tightly linked with your organization’s strategic plan. 

In short, a marketing CTO helps your organization focus on the long game. Yet they also attend to nitty-gritty details that arguably matter just as much: developing and implementing governance protocols, managing technical vendors and contractors who are working on your shared engagement platform, and training staff on how to make best use of outreach systems.

How your organization can get a marketing CTO

At this point you may ask yourself: “My organization already has a CTO(CIO,CSO)… so why aren’t they already doing some of these things?”

The most common reason is that those CTOs are often tasked with ensuring those inside the organization can get their work done effectively, with less of a focus on how the organization communicates to the outside world.  It is also fairly common for nonprofit CTOs to have limited marketing, communications or fundraising experience which also limits their attention or focus on these activities. As a result, your various outreach systems may “work” on a functional level, but are likely to be relatively siloed. And you may be missing out on some of their more powerful or sophisticated capabilities. With specialized expertise and understanding, there’s an opportunity to optimize and unify these technologies to power transformational improvements in your audience engagement.

Fortunately, there are many ways your organization can get a marketing CTO (or get at least some of the benefits of having one). These include:

  • Starting conversations with your executive team around shared budgeting for engagement systems
  • Developing an internal committee or steering group to discuss your portfolio of outreach technology & data integrations, as well as systems lifecycle management
  • Work with your existing CTO to discuss how they can support you better (or help you find external support for this function)
  • Engage a part-time CTO, freelance CTOs, or an agency that specializes in Engagement Architecture