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Communicating effectively

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Question:

What three ways nonprofits can maximize their communications?

Answer:

* Align your communications and programs.

Since they are each pursued in service of your mission, your communications and program goals must be closely aligned.

Communications should be a flawless extension of your program work, not an afterthought or silo within your organization, and it should be integrated into all your work.

* Start with Strategy.

All too often, nonprofit organizations are so focused on the day-to-day needs of clients and demands of programs they don’t take the time to give thoughtful consideration to strategy.

What are your goals? They should be clear, measurable and most importantly, doable within the next 12 to 18 months.

If it will take longer than that, there are some interim goals you need to focus on first.

Who are the key decision makers who can make your goals a reality?

How will you best connect with those people, how will you reach them, and what will you say when you do?

To maximize limited resources, nonprofit organizations need to make some careful decisions before they jump to communications tactics like hosting a press conference, buying ads in the newspaper, or sending a newsletter.

One of hardest things about communications planning is deciding what you’re not going to do.

Yet we are often reluctant to make choices because we worry that we’re ignoring something important or we’re not talking to all the important audiences we care about.

The reality for nonprofits is that you can’t do it all. It’s best to decide what you are going to do well.

* Be smart.

The most successful organizations, which are those using communications to both cultivate success and leverage their gains, tend to have a few simple things in common.

They are strategic about the decisions guiding their communications.

Their message is focused and crystal-clear about whom they are talking to and what they want to say.

They remain agile within an ever-changing communications environment.

They are relentless in identifying opportunities to connect with their audiences.

And they are tactically diverse in the methods they use to deliver their message.

–Compiled by Caroline Monday


Holly Minch is the executive director of the Communications Leadership Institute, a training program that helps nonprofits develop communications strategies that support their goals and missions. The Smart Chart, developed for the Communications Leadership Institute by Spitfire Strategies with funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, is a free, interactive tool to help nonprofits follow these key steps.

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