It’s a simple recipe. Nonprofits start “cooking” when they establish a mission. Then, in order to achieve that mission, they add healthy servings of potential donors, volunteers, and community members. These stakeholders are what make the dish come alive. They are essential in the same way flour is essential baking bread. But, we need more. We have the ingredients but we need a space where the two—the mission and the stakeholders—can come together. This “space” is usually called a kitchen. In the nonprofit world, I call it the Communications Plan.
The Communications Plan tells us what, how, and when we will share our message with the larger community. It answers core questions such as:
- Who are we trying to reach? (also known as your target audience)
- What is the core problem we are solving and how do we want to frame the issue?
- What are our key messages?
- When/how do we interact with the media? Who is responsible?
- What communication tools (social media, newsletters, etc.) do we use and how often?
- Who is responsible for interfacing with the public?
For a quick template, click here.
Communication and PR strategies can make a big difference. Even when there isn’t much in the budget for communication strategies, nonprofits can still have an impact.
5 Quick & Effective Ideas:
1) Teach board and staff how to speak about your agency. The people that are close to the organization—staff and board—are already talking about you. Do you know what they are saying? If not, then share with them your key messages. Write out those messages and offer a training where everyone can practice. Make sure to ask them to add their own personal flavor. They can share a story that touched their heart or share about the aspect of the mission which is especially important to them. It’s much more powerful to hear someone when it’s obviously they really care.
2) Tell stories. Stories are a powerful currency in the market of donor engagement. They can motivate us to give, to act, to share. By capturing and sharing the stories of your organization—the client success stories, the volunteer’s inspirational stories, the donor’s generosity stories—we can engage the community in a visceral way. Ask your staff to write down and collect clients’ stories. Keep these in a safe space so they can be used in enewsletters, appeal letters, media pitches, donor recognition letters, and so much more.
3) Use a variety of the tools available. There are many new tools available through the internet which can make communication cheaper, easier, quicker, and more engaging. These tools can and should be used in combination with each other. Here are just a few:
- Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (for great examples, look at Mama’s Kitchen, the San Diego Zoo, and the San Diego Opera)
- Nonprofit Blogs (for a great example, see San Diego Coastkeeper’s blog)
- Enewsletters (there are many inexpensive platforms such as MailChimp, ConstantContact, and VirtualResponse)
4) Enlist your funders. Is one of your donors a large corporation with many staff? Perhaps they can help. Here are a few ideas:
- Ask if your staff can participate in their company trainings. This is free capacity-building for your staff.
- If they would share your information in their company newsletter (assuming the content is useful to their employees).
- Ask if they would share about you on their corporate social media accounts.
- And so much more. . . be creative!
5) Make friends with the media. Media is a great source of free exposure; however, nonprofits are sometimes afraid to reach out to the media. Their media outreach efforts may rely solely a press release during major events. This is good but not good enough. A better strategy is to establish a relationship with the media. Meet the reporters that cover your area and begin a long-term conversation. It’s a win/win: over time you provide them with awesome story ideas, they in turn offer your agency excellent exposure. For an example, look at what Voices for Children accomplished with their recent Op/Eds…. The bottom line is this: don’t just think in terms of press releases, think about an ongoing relationship.
Nonprofit communication strategies are not hard but they do require some thought. When sitting down to map out your communication strategy, you can use some of these five easy-to-implement, inexpensive ideas to ensure your message is heard.
What are your ideas? Share them below or on www.Facebook.com/JennysJunction.
Do you know a nonprofit that does a great job at PR/Communication? If so, share their links here so we can all learn.