Looking for simple steps to create more impactful communications for your non-profit? This article is a good place to start.
Better to be something to someone, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.Liana Downey, Mission Control
This statement appears on the first page of Liana Downey’s terrific book Mission Control. I recently received a copy from Mia Swainson, chair of community group Zero Waste Revolution, and I am hooked.
It has been an enormous challenge for the non-profit organisations I’ve worked with to resist the pull of grant funding, community needs or an expansion agenda.
By pursuing these ‘opportunities’ organisations risk spreading themselves too thin and becoming only somewhat effective, or even ineffective, in many things, rather than remaining highly effective in something.
It also struck me that these same risks exist in communicating a non-profit’s mission.
Know your audience
Liana recommends gathering facts, including identifying your clients, as a pre-curser to strategic planning. This is also true for good communications planning.
Knowing your audience is critical to effective communications. Who you are talking to, what matters to them and the channels they engage with are important facts to know when creating an effective communications strategy.
Read Big Bang Social’s ‘How to create an effective social media audience profile’ for insights into audience profiling.
SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals really do make a difference. Your communications efforts must help you make progress towards your organisational goals. And, you need to be sure they are working.
Examples of strong communications goals include:
- Increase of X% in awareness of our organisation, evidenced by reach metrics, by Y date.
- Increase of X% in event bookings/enquiries/service access, by Y date.
- Increase of X% in donations/volunteer enquiries, by Y date.
- Increase of X% in sign-ups, by Y date.
One of the great things about social media and digital communications is that their performance is easily measured. Social media and website metrics are freely available. The data they capture can help you refine your communications, making them more effective. For example, you can produce more of the content that is popular, publish at times your audience is online and increase activity on platforms that engage your audience.
Pick your channels
There are so many digital and social media communications channels available to organisations today. New platforms are emerging each year, and existing platforms are constantly being modified. It can be difficult to keep up.
Be wary of stretching your communications across too many platforms.
Better to have a strong presence on one or two platforms, than be barely visible across multiple channels.
Where is your audience?
Communicating effectively takes time and resources. Focussing your communications efforts on the channels that your audience is tuned into is the best use of those resources.
Do your research and find out more about your audience’s communications preferences. This is your best guide to identifying the channels that are right for your non-profit.
Tell your story
“Story telling is critical to your ability to connect with potential clients and supporters.” says Liana, and I whole-heartedly agree.
In chapter eight of Mission Control, Liana lays out a wonderfully simple process for creating your organisation’s story. This is my favourite section of the book .
Non-profit organisations need a good story to engage with people at an emotional level. A good story will draw people into your organisation and engage them in your work. Key features of a good non-profit organisational story include:
- a protagonist, goals, challenges and a happy resolution.
- optimistic language and imagery
- clarity (no jargon)
- simplicity (easy to re-tell)
- an uplifting conclusion (there is a way to help/change/make things better)
Does your organisation have a compelling and optimistic story? I hope you feel inspired to gather your team and write one; and then start sharing it with your audience!
Don’t let mission creep dilute your message. Stay focussed, know your audience, pick your channels and tell your story with passion. These actions will deliver greater impact.
If you would like help with your non-profit’s communications planning, contact Big Bang Social.
If you have questions around strategic planning, Liana’s Mission Control website has some very useful resources.