We’re All In This Together: A Guide for Nonprofit Communication

Imagine with me for a moment some scenarios you may have seen around nonprofit communication. 

Scenario 1: 

Imagine you work at a nonprofit and your job is to answer the phone calls and emails of your donors. You take a call one day from a nice donor. She says she wants to “give to that special project she got the letter about in the mail.” However, you have no idea what that project is or what the designation on that gift should be. How would you feel?

Scenario 2: 

Imagine you volunteer for an organization helping to teach art classes at their inner-city youth program. You have been giving your time there for over five years. One day an organization sends you a mailing that asks you to get involved as a volunteer or asks you to donate to the sports program. How would you feel?

The Impact of Bad Nonprofit Communications 

I’d venture a guess that in both scenarios, the answer lies somewhere between frustrated, unappreciated, and disconnected. What’s interesting is that these are three words I hear from fundraising and marketing teams at nonprofits who feel like they are trying to tackle a monumental set of tasks all on their own. 

But here’s the thing… it doesn’t have to be this way! A quick mindset shift to recognize that your part is one piece of a giant group photo instead of a standalone selfie will go a long way in making everyone’s roles more productive. This mindset will go a long way to ensure everyone, donors included, feel more connected to your cause. 

Here are a few ways to get started:

Nonprofit Communication Should be Human First, Titles Second

It’s easy to get caught up in the labels of donor, volunteer, board member, or staff. At the end of the day though, all of those types of supporters are humans. Donors are not just walking ATM machines. Volunteers have lives outside of the time they give you. Board members and staff have a passion for things beyond your walls. Every person your organization touches is a fully functional human and should be treated as such. Because they are all humans, one thing they require in any relationship is feeling like it’s a two-way street. They want to know that they are heard and that they matter. 

In that first imaginary scenario, the staff member on the phone likely feels undervalued and disconnected because another staff member didn’t loop them in about a new campaign. The donor likely feels a level of confusion or frustration because they thought they were calling to make a difference and the staff member can’t make them feel that way if they don’t know what they are talking about. Creating a holistic, responsive nonprofit communication strategy that starts with understanding who ALL the parties are in the cycle of your nonprofit’s communication

Implementing Human First Nonprofit Communications 

  1. Make sure ALL staff members are copied or sent copies of all donor mailings so that everyone in the organization is aware and speaking the same language on current campaigns.
  2. Start with “who else needs to know this information” as a filter for all communication to make sure that key stakeholders don’t get missed.
  3. Remember that communication is a two-way street. It’s possible that someone receiving your mail piece or email message may have questions or comments, so make sure you have a plan in place to handle that. Making sure that emails are responded to in a timely manner or that donors can easily reach a human over the phone builds that relationship and connection in a big way!

Understand Your Stakeholders

Let’s go back to that second scenario. The nonprofit communication in that scenario meant that the volunteer likely felt unappreciated and unknown, potentially so much so that they considered walking away from your organization altogether. And no one wants that!

Generosity Isn’t Always Financial 

There are people who love and support your mission but may never be able to support the cause financially.  Instead of financial donations, they may instead give their time volunteering or use their social media to show support by sharing with their networks. Listen to the signals your supporters give you to understand them better and use that to create more personalized communications. Finding ways to get all of your staff, donors, volunteers, and social ambassadors involved creates excitement around the cause that moves people to give more and get further connected. 

Improve Nonprofit Communication With the Right Tools 

This is another place for two-way communication, but it’s with other folks in your organization. You need your nonprofit CRM and volunteer management tool to talk to each other. Unfortunately, it’s more common that those tools are treated as two separate things. But understanding what your volunteers are passionate about gives the fundraising team a way to connect with them around a specific topic or campaign they may want to support. Understanding what programs donors give to may help the volunteer management team in their recruitment efforts. Again, a holistic, responsive fundraising strategy can’t live only in that department. This is a great way to get multiple teams together and build connections across departments!

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Speaking of working across departments, let’s not forget the last piece of a holistic strategy: working smarter, not harder! I regularly see organizations where the amazing stories they tell in a donor email never make it to their social media. Or the opposite, where social media shows great moments through photos and videos, but those things never get included in a long text-heavy appeal letter.

Making sure all your nonprofit communications are cohesive and working together across multiple channels helps all the internal and external audiences feel like they get the whole picture of what’s happening. As an added bonus, it means that you have to format the content for each platform instead of starting from scratch on each channel every time!

We’re All in This Together

It’s so easy to feel like you are a deserted island in any fundraising or marketing role. I’ve talked with many professionals over the years at organizations running solo, just trying to keep their heads above water and do everything themselves. But good nonprofit communication is the job of the whole organization, and you are not alone. 

Gather some folks from across departments and get everyone thinking about the following questions:

  • Who are our stakeholders (donors, volunteers, staff, community, etc) and how do we communicate with each group? How do we get them information, and how do we connect with or answer them if they respond to those communications?
  • How do we best track where those stakeholders cross over departments so we understand what they are passionate about? How are we tracking their overall connection to the organization?
  • What does each team need to be able to communicate effectively and respond appropriately?

The Impact of Good Nonprofit Communication 

Given those questions, let’s imagine one more scenario involving nonprofit communication. 

Scenario 3: 

Imagine you are the donor who calls in to give a gift in response to the direct mail piece you received about a special campaign. The staff member on the call not only thanks you for that gift, but is equipped to tell you how that gift will impact the organization. The staff member also tells you that they have a meeting coming up for volunteer training around that topic and invites you to it, making you feel even more connected to what you are supporting. 

How does that feel? For me, that form of nonprofit communication would make me feel valued and connected. And who doesn’t want to feel that?

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

See the Virtuous platform in action.  Schedule a call with our team for personalized answers and expert advice on transforming your nonprofit with donor management software.

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

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