All non-profit organisations need to communicate. Whether you develop a highly structured communication plan or a simple information newsletter that is regularly posted to your website, communication strategies are what give your organisation a heart.
Your communications must be informative and must help you to clarify what you do and why you do it. The work of non-profits is exceptionally demanding and all too often the communication side is left for when someone has a free moment (a rare occurrence), or a funder requires information, or a journalist declares an interest.
Communication is too important to be prepared only on demand. Below are 10 reasons why non-profits should communicate!
1. PROVIDE INFORMATION
Every organisation needs to make known the work they do, the communities with which they interact and the sectors in which they operate.
2. SUPPORT YOUR ADVOCACY
Advocacy is not only about lobbying for a cause outside of the organisation but also for the organisation itself. The more people know about what an organisation does and achieves the more likely they are to connect the organisation to programmes, causes, funding opportunities etc. when the sector is being considered.
3. GET YOUR MARKETING MESSAGE OUT THERE
Aligned to Information distribution and Advocacy but a more focused and purposeful communicative strategy that has a set of goals and outcomes for particular marketing strategies.
4. ENSURE PUBLICITY
A way to make sure that good “stories” are broadcast in appropriate quarters so that the organisation becomes recognised within valued and valuable sectors. Publicity makes an organisation visible.
5. ENSURE ENGAGEMENT
Members need to be kept informed and they need to be given a continuing sense of belonging. A regular set of meaningful communications that keep members connected to the organisation can be very successful in keeping – and growing – membership of an organisation.
6. SUPPORT YOUR FUNDRAISING EFFORTS
Good fundraising requires good communication. Strategies for communication that work toward displaying and supporting fundraising goals are critical to any Advancement programme. Whether asking for funding, saying thank you or merely informing people of the status of a campaign, regular clear communication pieces are the backbone of a successful Advancement programme.
7. CLARIFY YOUR PURPOSE
Organisations are forced to be clear and sure about their purpose, goals and objectives when designing communication pieces. These are key for ensuring that everyone in the organisation has the same understanding and the same sense of priorities. Particularly in bigger organisations or ones that have diverse programmes and/or locations the message can sometimes become muddled and having to provide regular communication pieces helps to ensure that clarity of goals prevails.
8. KEEP FOCUSED
Much like clarifying your purpose above, keeping focused is an important part of the work in non-profits. It is very easy in a busy non-profit to be side-tracked without even realising it when demands on time and resources are so great and varied. Reports, interim narratives and update pieces help members of an organisation to keep their “eye on the prize”.
9. INTEGRATED PLANNING
Strong and successful Advancement programmes have well-integrated communication plans that encompass all aspects of the organisation. The strategic plan of any non-profit must take into account the critical role that all communication plays in presenting an organisation to best advantage.
10. YOUR HUMAN FACE
Every non-profit will benefit from having human faces linked to their profiles. Whether these are interesting stories about the work that individuals or groups do, or whether it be about the people who ultimately benefit from your work, a human interest story is memorable and gives your organisation a humanness that will enhance your image positively and constructively.
An Advancement Handbook: Tips and Tools for Resource Mobilisation. From Inyathelo’s Advancement Perspective for UNCDF, October 2012, Cape Town