12 Questions to Bust Silos at Your Organization

By Cindy Goldberg

When I was asked to lead a Passover direct mail and e-appeal project for a client, I kicked it off by meeting with members from the development, communications, marketing, program and finance teams independently before meeting as a cohesive group. After all, all of them are directly impacted by the planning and results of the mailed, right? A few lessons came from this:

  • They have never met to discuss the lifecycle of direct mail and e-appeal projects together.
  • None of them realized how much heavy lifting the others managed.
  • They loved sharing with each other.

Over the past two decades I have worked with national and global Jewish organizations and have found a common thread between development, communications, marketing, program and finance teams: silos.

They happen. Whether the organization has 24 people or 240 people. They happen whether organizations are financially strong with healthy endowments or a bit more scrappy and concerned about making payroll next month.

Recently I wrapped up working with a client that allowed me to work and guide with each department and break down their silos. During my time with them I worked closely with their committed and talented development, program, finance, communications and marketing teams. Their senior leadership supported my approach to bring teams together to see how they fit together.

As a team we implemented changes that were based on seeing challenges from all angles and bringing together all of the people who have the ability to implement solutions. We knocked down silos together because we were on the same page and made decisions as a team.

Below are 12 silo busting questions and examples of how working together could achieve better organizational outcomes and eliminate your air tight tops. How does your organization stack up?

Development, Communications and Marketing

  • Is your Development Department consistently using the messaging created by the Communications Department and developed by the Marketing Department across all verticals?
  • Do your Communications and Marketing Departments know the goals of the assets they are asked to create? For example, event invitations are more than only providing logistical information and showcasing honorees.

Development, Communications and Finance

  • How do these departments work together organization to collect pledges? All of these departments are ideally involved with pledge collections in various capacities.

Communications and Marketing

  • How are the fine lines that divide the Communications and Marketing departments communicated to the entire organization? For example, a list of responsibilities for each department would help maximize how requests are presented to each department.

Development and Finance

  • How do you work together for write offs? Write offs are not popular, however necessary. Working together will strengthen your organization by reviewing guidelines and thinking through the infrastructure.

Development and Program

  • How do the costs of programs align with the program goals and fitting in with the organization’s mission?
  • What is the desired impact of the program(s) and how do members of the Development Department plan to showcase these to current and potential donors? This will help the Development Department find funders for the program(s) and think about collaborative opportunities with other partners.
  • When someone suggests creating a new program to align fit with a funder, ask these questions: what existing programs may be a better use of resources than creating a new program? How does fitting into a funder’s request maintain the integrity of the organization?

Program and Communications

  • When are the measurable and anecdotal from programs shared with the communications team to update data (website, email content, press releases, speeches, etc.)?

Program and Finance

  • Are there barriers with the number of participants based on the budget?
  • What are the processes and timeframe for vendors to receive payment?
Cindy’s philanthropy philosophy is this: One size does not fit all. She runs a nonprofit consulting practice and resides in New York City. To learn more about working together, please contact Cindy Goldberg at cindygoldberg@gmail.com