Nonprofits need a communication strategy that accurately reflects their vision and goals. A great nonprofit communications strategy is key to increasing awareness, raising funds, and ensuring the organization runs smoothly.
Often nonprofits find themselves struggling with developing a communications strategy because:
- They lack a donor-centric communication approach.
- Their communication is not tailored to different audience segments.
- They fail to focus on relationship-building over time.
- They stick to one or two channels of communication only.
- They don’t strike a balance between communicating what they do and why they do it.
To help you avoid these issues and navigate through your nonprofit communication plan, we have compiled a few best practices that can get you started. Let’s dive right in!
Nonprofit Communication Best Practices
Nonprofit communication involves any kind of communication between a nonprofit and its stakeholders, such as:
- Potential supporters
- Board members
- The general public
The communication could range from raising awareness about your nonprofit and its cause to soliciting donations, nurturing relationships with donors, or sending updates about your organization’s activities.
This list of 10 best practices involves outreach to all key stakeholders in your nonprofit communication strategy.
1. Chalk out your goals
Get your notebook, grab a pen, and note down everything that you feel is essential to your organization in terms of communication. Identify the stakeholders you need to involve when considering a communication plan.
Are your communication needs time-sensitive? Are you planning and developing a long-term strategy to engage your audience? Opt for a strategy that addresses the urgency of the goal at hand. For example, newsletters are a great way to keep in touch with your audience over a long period of time. Text messages are most effective for short-term, immediate goals.
Understand the goal of the communication initiative— are you trying to raise funds or create awareness? Is it a brand-building exercise? Are you trying to gain the trust of your supporters while introducing a new chairperson? Your communication goal will help you take the next steps.
2. Personalize your communication
When you are dealing with a large group of contacts, it is important to understand that you can’t communicate with all of them in the same way. You may need to send more formal letters to high-value donors. At other times, you might decide that calling and texting some contacts seems more beneficial.
Identifying these differences requires you to segment your audience into different groups. You can segment them into groups based on:
- Income level
- Past giving record
- Family ties
- Education level (and much more!)
Use tag features on your CRM software to segment your target audience.
You might want to reach out to younger audiences with volunteering appeals, or might decide the best strategy to fundraise is to target older segments of the audience with donation appeals. Using details such as their first name or reaching out to them when there is an event in their city are ways in which you can leverage personalized communication.
3. Use multiple outreach channels
If you have the bandwidth, you should explore different channels for your nonprofit outreach initiatives. Some ways in which you can reach out are:
- Calling: You can run calling initiatives by asking your staff or volunteers to make calls for fundraising, event invites, and more! Calling builds a personal connection with the people you are reaching out to.
- Texting: Send texts and personally reply to each query that recipients have about your organization or any of its initiatives. You can share event posters, collect RSVPs, or advertise your fundraising campaign through mass texts.
- Social media: Explore how you can engage your audience through regular social media updates, appeals, stories, and more. Make your social media accessible through your website.
- Email newsletters: As a long-term donor engagement strategy, sharing weekly or monthly newsletters will help you create recall for your nonprofit organization.
- Direct mail: For high-value donors, explore the possibility of sending direct mail to create added value. However, ensure these are few and far apart and only used for important events.
4. Conduct surveys to understand your audience
Surveys help improve and optimize your communication plan as time goes on. They are an excellent tool to gauge your audience and gain feedback on your campaigns. You can create online surveys and share them with your audience via text or email for fast responses.
Surveys will help you assess what your audience expects from your organization as well as your brand perception amongst your target audience. Some key survey questions would include:
- Why did you choose to support our organization?
- How likely are you to donate to our cause again?
- Did you face any issues while donating?
- Would you consider volunteering at our organization?
- How do you feel about the work we are doing right now, and what could we improve?
- What are specific causes you are passionate about?
- Do you mind receiving updates from us via email, texts, and calls?
- How inspired are you to volunteer or donate?
5. Share your highs
Did you win an award recently? Was your awareness initiative successful? Did you exceed your fundraising goals? Share these moments of happiness with your audience and show them you are awesome at what you do.
The Gates Foundation’s update about their recent investment in global nutrition is a great example of sharing your success. Plus, the message is consolidated by conveying the kind of impact this step forward will generate. Sharing your highs helps build trust between you and your potential supporters, making them more likely to support your cause, fundraisers, and other initiatives.
6. Ask for consent
It might be tempting to reach out to as many people as you can when beginning your outreach efforts, but it’s likely to be harmful in the long run. Sending unsolicited SMS blasts or emails might lead to an increase in unsubscribes and spam reports.
To avoid issues related to unhappy recipients, always ask for consent before signing people up to receive notifications from your nonprofit. You can get them to opt-in to your text messages or subscribe to your newsletter through your website.
7. Work on your call to action
It is helpful for nonprofit communications to be clear on what you want your audience to do. Determine if you want them to sign up for your newsletter, donate to your fundraiser, or volunteer with you. Your call to action could be anything that helps you achieve your current goals.
A successful nonprofit communication effort would lead your audience exactly where you want them to go. An unclear call to action message is a wasted opportunity considering the time, cost, and effort that each outreach campaign requires. Decide on your call to action goal— whether it is to subscribe to your newsletter, donate to your organization, or register to volunteer— and work towards it throughout the development of the campaign.
8. Use inclusive language
Harness the power of language when designing your communication campaign. Use language that moves the audience and makes them feel included as a part of the mission you are undertaking.
Instead of saying, “We raised $10,000 during this fundraiser,” try saying, “You helped our fundraiser raise $10,000.” Instead of saying, “Our nonprofit helped individuals rebuild their lives,” try saying, “Together, we helped bring change to the community.” It shifts the focus back to your supporters and encourages them to continue supporting you.
9. Connect with supporters emotionally
You can create videos about the kind of work you are doing. Videos connect with the audience more powerfully than any other medium, especially in the nonprofit sector. You can also create banner images that appeal to your audience. Use visuals to elicit emotional responses to your content.
10. Optimize your website
Your website is your online home. It is where people discover who you are, what you do, and how they can support you in achieving your goals. Optimize your website to take advantage of what it can do for you.
Focus on how you design and implement a call to action on your website. Its placement is crucial to achieving the results you want to see. A great example of this is the International Committee Of The Red Cross’s call-to-action placement on their website. It is placed right on the front page and the red call-to-action button distinguishes it from the other content on the website.
You can also stream the latest news or your live events, add plug-ins to your social media, and create a powerful blogging engine to give your audience a great experience on your website.
Use your social media platforms to direct your audience to your website. Share your web address through text messages or email blasts that you send out so people can easily find you.
Developing a successful communication plan for your organization is a process that you will perfect by trying different outreach channels and outreach strategies.
Make sure you are exploring different channels of communication to reach out to as many different segments of your audience as possible.
This article is written by Shiksha Sharma, and published on morweb.org