Onboarding a new client presents the perfect opportunity for close collaboration, to learn how to best manage communications, and create the optimal synergy between organizations—all critical aspects in building a productive and effective working relationship. Avalon is able to avoid common onboarding pitfalls by implementing a detailed transition plan that guarantees we start our relationships off on the right foot.
Yes, it’s a complex undertaking to sort out all of the details, but it boils down to this:
Build relationships. Put faces to names and learn all about the people you’ll be working with: client development/fundraising contacts, other client departments (digital, communications, etc.), existing partners (production, other vendors, partners, etc.). This is a good time to find out if there are board or executive mandates that must be taken into consideration. And work out the best way to communicate: in person/email/teleconference, and how often.
Capture the voice of the organization. Hold in-person meetings with stakeholders who can lay out the vision, mission, and messaging. Review all materials across the client organization. Engage in creative and programmatic discussions to pinpoint the right language and tone.
Get your head into the data. Set up your own necessary internal data systems and take a deep dive into the client’s data to understand past results, why the client’s file is where it is, and where to go from there.
Apply systems/processes. This is the in-the-weeds part, where you go over the critical—but not particularly fascinating—aspects of the new client’s program…things like source code logic, inventory storage, sustainer stewardship processes, acknowledgement program, Pantone colors—all the nuts and bolts that could fall through the cracks and mess up the gears of the program if they’re not tightened up just right.
Plan, plan, plan… but also be flexible. Keep the program running while you gear up to make your mark on it. Look for ways to make incremental changes that can make a real difference to the bottom line.
Throughout the onboarding process, Avalon reports findings to our new client and communicates next steps, so there are no surprises. Our goal is for the process to naturally and seamlessly evolve into a daily working relationship designed to maximize the success of our clients’ direct marketing fundraising programs.
The keys to any successful transition are planning, flexibility, and communication—examining all aspects of the fundraising program, improving them if possible, and moving the client to the next level of success. Having a plan in place is essential and ensures that no detail in the complex direct marketing program is overlooked. Just as nonprofits strive to make a good first impression with their donors to build strong foundations for ongoing relationships, consultants must make sure their collaborative client partnerships get off to a good start to ensure future success.