By Soyem Osakwe
Building support for a cause, advocating for change; pressuring policymakers and documenting social impact all require effective communication. While every non-profit organisation (NPOs) has a specific mission, NPOs are united in a similar quest to drive social change, offer desperately needed services to the most vulnerable and improve the lives of others by ensuring that everyone has a voice in decisions that affect their lives. However, NPOs are so focused on their mission to save the world, they often overlook a crucial component of their work: communication, and storytelling.
Unlike for-profit organisations, which can afford to engage an entire marketing and communications department, NPOs are usually run by volunteers and limited funds from donors, so there is a smaller budget to work with. NPO communication calls for tact, empathy, talent, coordination and commitment. These qualities can be channelled into the development of effective communications strategies that can gain support, attract new donors, build credibility, track progress, challenges, and convey them to diverse stakeholders. Therefore, regardless of where you are in your NPO journey, these communication tips will be useful as you navigate the process of championing actions that have meaningful and long-term solutions to social issues.
- Start with Clearly Defined Objectives. What are the objectives of your overall programme? Your communications strategy should support your specific programme/project objectives. Objectives must be S.MA.R.T– Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time–Based. What do you hope to achieve as a result of your communications activities? Effective communication strategies are built on clearly stated goals and an unbiased assessment of the resources available to achieve those goals. No NPO communications strategy would be complete without a review of the what, why, who, and how. “What” is the purpose of your cause and the message you are trying to send to your audience. The “why” is a justification for anyone to support your cause. The “who” includes all stakeholders relevant to your cause and their role. The “how” refers to the methods or channels through which you will communicate your message to your audience. Instead of hopping on every channel, focus on the ones that have the biggest impact, make the most of that, and intensify your work there. Although interesting, communication trends do not always support predetermined objectives. Avoid following every fad but remain adaptable and keep your eyes on your objectives.
- Hire Right. Non-Profit Communication Requires Passion: A person who is passionate about a cause is keenly aware of both its significance and its difficulties. Such persons can handle complex situations, generate intriguing concepts and solutions, and inspire others to give their all. Therefore, whether a full-time employee or a volunteer is managing communications, it is important to make sure that their values correspond with those of the organisation.
- Be Proactive: Rather than just addressing continuing problems, you ought to be starting conversations. It is crucial for your communications to demonstrate that you are actively considering future implications, that you are aware of ongoing trends, and that you are aware of potential threats because a significant portion of non-profit work involves providing projections and forecasts based on available data.
- Campaigns Must be Purposeful, and Data Backed: Determine what you want the audience to know and what you want them to do as a result before you start any communications campaigns. Never forget that people respect evidence-based results above opinions and thoughts. Verify the accuracy of the information being supplied. Additionally, it is crucial to remember that audiences may remember information better when it is divided up into smaller chunks, so if you want people to respond, make sure your message is concise, memorable, and shareable.
- Build a Connection with Your Audience: Activism requires purposeful language, there must be a purpose to the information you share. Because you want to change attitudes toward a certain issue, your communications should be compelling and evoke responses. So, it is important that you understand the audience and that you develop a brand voice that is compatible with your mission and values as an organisation. Keep in mind that your messages should accomplish two goals. Building support for your cause comes first. This indicates that more people learn about you and develop a sense of trust for you as a result of the information you disclose, making them more likely to support your cause by making a donation. Additionally, your target audience should be moved to volunteer for your cause. The second objective is to alter people’s perspectives on a particular problem. It is simple to lose sight of the fact that everything you do has a purpose, and that all of your messages have to be timely and beneficial.
- Collaborate and Partner with Individuals and Similar Groups: Think about it, you have similar goals, and you are united in your cause, collaborating on projects can help you move faster towards your shared goal. Collaboration has advantages such as:
- *Strengthening advocacy voice and reinforcing your message
- *Increasing brand and message exposure.
- *Enhancing coordinated efforts for central data collection and sharing.
- *Increasing efficiency and drawing on complementary skills.
- Be Intentional on Social Media: Depending on your mission and audience, social media can be a great way to increase visibility for your cause, amplify your message and get the attention or new supporters and individual donors. Social media success lies in consistency. If you are not consistent with your message, or the frequency of your posts, you will lose the interest of your audience. Remember that feedback is essential and social media allows two-way messaging, thus, listening to feedback is just as important as your message. Keep your content engaging, enlightening and informative. Keep it professional and avoid using irrelevant hash tags. A question at the end of a post can spark a discussion and increase interaction. Also, use various social media features to promote your message; for example, explore Twitter spaces or Instagram live for real-time discussions on hot topics.
- Be Consistent: What is the central idea of your message? How frequently do you state your position? Avoid ambiguity that could confuse the audience. Do you tweet one thing and then retweet something that contradicts what you said? Does your target audience know who you are? Do they trust you? Are you transparent and consistent across all platforms?
- Evaluate and Track and Gain Useful Insights: Your strategy for your non-profit may be brilliant. You may have planned several events to fundraise at the end of the year. Even if you are just starting out, you should evaluate past communication efforts and use what you learn to determine what works and does not. If you have already set goals for your communication, you can refer to them and evaluate your efforts. Pay attention to the platforms that have the most influence, create surveys and interview people to understand their needs and interests, test various communication approaches, and measure the impact of your work.