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The 10 Keys to Nonprofit Communications Success
Nonprofit communications share a lot in common with other marketing disciplines, but a few keys can make all the difference between successful campaigns and painful failures.
One significant difference involves the stakeholders in a conversation. With most commercial enterprises, you have the company and its prospects and customers. Nonprofits have to navigate a more complex environment involving donors, volunteers, administrators, and those that benefit from the organization’s work. Each of these requires a different voice, perspective, and approach.
Successful nonprofit communications result from a cohesive strategy that takes a balanced approach to all of an organization’s various audiences, markets, and channels. This article will discuss the ten key factors that distinguish a successful effort.
KEY #1: COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY AND PLANNING
Efforts are rarely successful when they’re half-baked and executed by the seat of your pants. To be successful, you need a plan. This includes a big-picture communications timeline with all of your organization’s major milestones and each of the communications surrounding them.
Create an editorial calendar to guide your efforts, and be certain it’s integrated with any existing marketing efforts. Simultaneously, ensure budget goals are established and met so that funds are available to execute your strategy in a timely, effective manner.
KEY #2: PRIORITIZING TARGETS AND UNDERSTANDING YOUR COMMUNITY
As you plan, include a thorough review of your overall audience and the sub-markets you want to reach. It’s critical that you know who you’ll be speaking to with each of your communications. This involves polling existing donors, volunteers, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders to gauge their needs and concerns.
Create personas for each of your major audiences, and create targeted communications that engage them where they are. Work to understand who you need to reach most — and when — throughout the year and across your entire communications schedule.
KEY #3: CREATING ENGAGING CONTENT AND RELEVANT MESSAGING
Content creation is a critical component of nonprofit communications success. You need content to draw people to you, giving them relevant information that makes a difference in their lives. This content establishes you as an expert and boosts your credibility.
It’s crucial that your messaging follows in lockstep with your content for more cohesive engagement. Be sure that it’s relevant, real-time, responsive, and compelling. Most importantly for nonprofits, always include clear and specific calls to action. That’s because your communications are almost always about motivating action, whether that donating, volunteering, or otherwise getting involved with your cause.
KEY #4: COMMUNICATIONS CHANNEL MANAGEMENT
If you’re leaning too heavily on one communications platform at the expense of others, it’s time to manage your communications channel. A multichannel approach is considerably more effective than single-channel campaigns because they meet people where they are and reinforce your messages across numerous touchpoints.
Effective channel management involves audience segmentation, social media management, email campaigns, community development, and blog content. Ensure that you’re repurposing your content and content from other sources across every available channel.
And don’t forget handwritten direct mail. Handwritten communications enjoy a staggering 99% open rate and an emotional engagement that’s hard to beat. Simply Noted can help with automated, handwritten card campaigns that are as easy to personalize and execute as email.
KEY #5: REPUTATION MANAGEMENT AND BRAND CONSISTENCY
If you called a friend to chat and found them saying and doing things out of character, would you find that offputting? The same applies to nonprofits and their brand. You need to establish a consistent brand voice and personality that feels the same no matter where your audiences engage with you.
Simultaneously, you’ll need to police online comments, responding quickly and decisively to any negativity you find. This is a critical component of reputation management, a practice that also labors to ensure that your reputation remains intact across every communication channel.
KEY #6: SKILLFULLY WRITTEN CONTENT
If you want your audiences to respect your chosen positions, you’ll need skillfully-written content to engage them and provide social proof. This involves recognizing that different types of communications require different skills and writing styles.
At any given time, you might be generating news stories, blog posts, press releases, web copy, white papers, testimonials, case studies, and more. Make sure you have the necessary staff to execute all of these masterfully.
KEY #7: VISUAL CONTENT CREATION
Written content is only part of the story. You need visual content to provide explanations, create excitement, and expand your reach to visually-oriented platforms. This includes videos, memes, photography, print and email mailers, and more. Be sure you or someone on your staff has the necessary skills to execute dynamic visual content.
KEY #8: RELATIONSHIPS, BOUNDARIES, AND PRODUCTIVITY
To be productive in your communications, you need to manage the rest of your life effectively. You need to set priorities and include ample time for communications amid the rest of your personal and professional responsibilities.
Also key is your ability to manage others. You certainly can’t do all of the work yourself, so you need to manage relationships and processes to ensure consistent execution no matter who is doing the work.
KEY #9: ESTABLISHING COMMUNICATIONS PROCESSES
Building off of the previous key, you need established workflows and processes to ensure consistent communications. That means creating clear lines of authority, documenting your creation processes (and simplifying them as much as possible to encourage adoption), setting editorial meetings to keep everyone on the same page, and creating a culture that respects deadlines and works diligently to meet them.
KEY #10: OPTIMIZING YOUR APPROACHES AND MEASURING SUCCESS
Finally, your communications need constant optimization to ensure they’re always maximally relevant and effective. To accomplish this, establish performance indicators to rate each communication’s success and failure. Gather as much data as you can for each campaign and channel and rate this against your key metrics.
Now experiment! Don’t be afraid to take chances and try new approaches. Your next big opportunity could be waiting right around the corner that you’re too nervous to explore. Establish a safe baseline and then try new things, refining as you go.
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