Effective Nonprofit Communications

The saying goes: “Kids today have it so easy. They get a text message when school is closed. I had to dial into the local radio and listen for 20 minutes sweating bullets to see if my school was on that alphabetical list.” It’s true, and it’s really one of the easiest examples of how communication is ever-changing.

Sometimes we long for simpler times, but even those who are slow to embrace technology are relying more and more heavily on electronic means to get the information we need. While that technology is a game-changer, it’s also a slippery slope to your organization becoming less human with each text, Tweet, and email.

No matter how you share the news about your organization, you need to respect the message and the recipient. Here are a few ways to make that happen:

1. Begin at the Beginning. Where do I learn about your organization? For most people, it’s a Google search (there are 5.6 billion searches each day). Whether you created it or not, your organization probably has a profile. If you haven’t claimed it, it’s time to claim it and use it to your advantage and to tell your story. And, if you don’t know how to do that, just Google it!
2. It’s Personal. A static statement about facts and figures, no matter how amazing the numbers, is still as flat as the numbers written on paper. Including who, what, when and where is important, but why and how are the rich details you need. Dive into a personal story with a great photo and then share the ways this story is multiplied by your organization’s work.
3. The Right Tool for the Right Job. You don’t use a screwdriver to tighten a bolt. Don’t use Twitter for a target audience above 60 or print media for one under 30. If you aren’t sure which options fit your needs (traditional vs. social media, email messages, billboards, fliers, text messages, and more), do your research on media reach or simply asking your key audience members. Often multiple tools get the job done better than a single strategy. The trade-off is the time and/or financial commitment the message deserves.
4. Partner Up. If your message benefits others, share the communications. For-profit companies have an advantage here (Want to distribute detergent samples & coupons at the baseball concession stand for moms to try on stained uniforms? Yes, please!), but even non-profits have shared audiences to help. Fliers about an event for young children could find their audience at libraries, preschools, and daycares and find their social media audience in mommy chat groups.

As I said before, respect the message and respect the recipient. It doesn’t necessarily take money, but it does take thoughtful planning. Make sure the great messages you have to share get to the audience who needs them.

Susan Haynes
Executive Director, Churches in Mission
Communications Director, Mooresville Schools

In addition to her work at Mooresville Schools and Churches in Mission, Susan is also past board member and past president of the Community Foundation of Morgan County, Morgan County Leadership Academy, and Mooresville Chamber of Commerce. She serves on the boards of the Mooresville High School Alumni Association and the Indiana School Public Relations Association.

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