I read somewhere recently that one of my colleagues in the world of nonprofit consulting believes that npo’s in general are hoarders. I know, the first thing that comes to your mind is that TV show, which I have to admit I watch every now and then.
She didn’t really mean to imply that nonprofits are that kind of hoarder. Her point was that we tend to “hoard” good news and information that we should be sharing with donors, prospective donors and other key audiences. In other words, we often don’t communicate effectively enough to make sure our stories are out there and working for us, and that our various audiences are “tuned in” in the ways they should be.
I’m a hoarder of information too, but my hoarding focuses on finding and saving articles, blogs, etc. dedicated to all things nonprofit. I’ve built a huge library on paper and online and I am constantly filtering through it for information for my clients and myself. Recently, I came across an article written several years ago by Jill Rasmussen, another nonprofit consultant.
In her article Jill offered the following things any nonprofit can and should do right now to strengthen communications. I’m paraphrasing more than just a bit, and my own comments are in italics.
1. Understand who you are. A brand is more than a logo; it comprises all the things that tell your story and make people want to care about you. Most important question you’ll ever answer: “Why should I the donor care?” Do you know the answer? And no, it’s not because you need his or her money.
2. Know your key audiences. A key audience is one that can help you meet your mission. Who are those audiences for you? Donor, funder, government official, media, volunteers?
3. Prioritize your audiences. Which key audiences are most important? Prioritize those. Get to know them and what you want from them. And it’s not always money.
4. Create key messages. Your talking points must articulate what you want each audience to do and, more importantly, what’s in it for them. Write these down and share them with folks who will communicate on your behalf.
5. Then, talk to them. Yes, talk. Ask questions, listen, respond and get conversations going. You should get in a rhythm of talking 40% of the time and listening 60%. That's not easy for most of us, but it's worth it.
6. Engage the staff and board. Share the work. Get board members, staff and key volunteers involved. Even donors can help meet your communication objectives.
7. Work as a team. Everyone singing from the same song sheet, understanding his or her role and making the most of communications opportunities.
8. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. It will be important to evaluate successes and challenges, share experiences (good and not so good) and use the feedback to improve areas that could use help.
And, my suggestion: Write a communications plan, similar to your fundraising plan, coordinate the two, update as needed and make everything work together for the good of the whole.
Model communications plans can easily be found online, as can examples of fundraising plans (tons of templates, too). These plans not only help keep you on track, they also bring others into your planning and implementation (and help them understand just where you’re headed), creating a team approach to successful communications, donor development and fundraising.
If you would like, I can send you some of what I have collected in the way of templates, policies, models, etc. Just e-mail me. Oh, and as always, if you disagree with me or think I’ve left something out, let me know.