Nonprofit Communications: Surviving the Frontline


In this age of information clutter, the concept of marketing communications for nonprofits seems all too sales-centric and too fuelled by money. Many nonprofits struggle with this concept, asking themselves “Is it too slimy to apply?”

Branding for nonprofits can be a challenge. All we want to do is focus on “doing good” and the last thing we want to worry about is our brand and voice. We are not selling anything so why worry about it?

As much as we would like to deny, the nonprofit market is saturated. With today’s superbly competitive fundraising environment, nonprofits are selling something. They are selling their mission, convincing those with resources to choose them over another deserving nonprofit. It is precisely this that makes communications all the more important to help you to effectively promote your cause.

Naturally, we, as a sector, don’t like talking about competition and certainly not about fundraising as sales. But, if we are going to survive the challenges facing the nonprofit sector, we have to admit that marketing and sales are essentially the same as communications and fundraising. We’re operating our business in a tough world, folks and we’ve got to prepare for the battle.

Brand Building for your Nonprofit

The onslaught of the digital age has put us all on a new footing. As the media environment buckles and shifts, as new forms of technology emerge and mutate, the business, ethical and creative challenges in communications are formidable. How do we connect with audiences who feel there is too much to take in and do anything about when everyone can have a channel with tools that are readily available, cheap and easy to use?

The fact remains: nonprofits have valuable assets to deploy in the digital environment – knowledge and content, trust and brand. They are becoming news and information providers, linking directly to their audiences, building social networks and partnering with different stakeholders.

The Key to Winning

If we continue to get smart together and reinvent our nonprofit organizations to that of communicating organizations, then each of us, in our own way, can help determine the shape of things to come. The key to success is thinking strategically and communicating clearly to stay ahead of your competition.

1. The Early Days of Battle – build your identity and spread your story

Fortify your brand image, communicate who you are and what you stand for, to stand out from the crowd; inspire people and connect with them to amplify your journey towards success.

Update your website and social media pages regularly, convey your BIG Story at community events; send thank you letters; and weave aspects of your BIG Story into your appeal tactics to remind people why they love your organisation.

2. Create a Strong Web of Alliances – focus on your targets

Each organization is fighting for its share of donors and supporters. You must find out what is really important to them. Success stories must connect emotionally and the call to action must be distinct.

Put a face to the problem. Use succinct and compelling messages to highlight your cause, stress the urgency of giving now, why they matter and why you need them. Always keep them engaged and be consistent but different!

3. Tactical Manoeuvring – explore all outlets of communication

Now that you know what you want to say and why, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to broadcast your message. No matter the outlet, there should be a common thread or theme that pulls all of your communication efforts together that embeds itself at the heart of your cause.

Utilize traditional and social media to communicate with your stakeholders. Once you’ve exhausted traditional media, focus on a select few by planning media-free communication activities, such as wall magazines, social dramas and targeted awareness drives.

Just like a battlefield, nonprofit communications should be about achieving change with minimal resources employed. But with the aim of creating social change, at the heart of nonprofit communications lie transparency, consistency and sincerity. So, never plan for a single shot; think of a series of continuous communication activities which should be tied together as part of a comprehensive strategy. That’s the formula to winning the hearts and minds of millions all over the world.

Posted by Stephanie Robert, Advocate(PR), CorpMedia

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