Nonprofit Communications: Are They Helping You Build Relationships?

Nonprofit communication is a concept that is both difficult to define and implement. Regardless, as a nonprofiteer, you’ve probably heard many times that a nonprofit communication strategy is vital to your organization’s success. But how exactly is a communication plan crucial to your nonprofit? Today, we’re talking about relationships and how your communication plan can make or break the connections you make with your constituents.

Ann Green, a nonprofit communications consultant and blogger, says that while the term is very broad in meaning, she sees it as sharing any sort of information for a specific purpose, such as connecting with an audience or thanking donors.

Nonprofit Communications as a Key to Success

Effective communication is at the root of every nonprofit’s operations and efforts. Without it, there’s no good way to get a message across to your constituents. If your message isn’t reaching your audience, you won’t ever see new or returning supporters.

According to Green, many nonprofits don’t communicate with their constituents enough—donors especially.

“Donors need to know they are helping the organization make a difference,” Green said. “Donors need to feel appreciated. Organizations need to thank their donors and share updates at least once a month, preferably more often.”

She also emphasized the importance of writing and communicating in a conversational style, using clear and easy-to-interpret language that the donor will understand and relate to. Of course, good communication is the key to donor retention, which is vital to a nonprofit’s success.

However, take these lessons and apply them to your communications with all of your supporters—donors, volunteers, staff, etc. The key here is to create personalized messages that are unique to different audiences.

Craft Audience-Centered Messages

Whether you’re reaching out to prospective donors, recurring donors, volunteers or employees, make sure that you know your audience. Familiarize yourself with what they’re interested in and how they like to be communicated with. Prospective donors, for example, will want to know your nonprofit’s financial strategy and its impact on the community. Volunteers, on the other hand, might care less about financials and more about the impact they can make through your mission.

To stay audience-centered with your communications, Green suggests keeping the goal of building that unique relationship front and center.

“Show appreciation… communicate often and make a point to do it well,” Green said.

Use Tools That Work for Your Organization

Nonprofit communications encompasses a wide range of tools that organizations can use to get their message across. The important thing is to choose the few that will work best for your organization and to tailor your communication style to that specific tool. For example, according to Green, email and social messages must be short and easy to scan.

Whether you use email or direct mail, Green also emphasizes using the communication channels that your audiences use most often. If your audience is young and lively on social media, build your Twitter and Facebook presence. If you are seeking out donors, thank yous and email newsletters are your friends.

However, if your organization has yet to adopt direct mail, Green suggests that organizations include direct mail once or twice a year as part of their communication strategy.

“It’s [direct mail] more personal and your supporters will be more likely to see your message,” Green said.

The key here is to pick the tools and channels that your audiences will understand, and to use those consistently.

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Poor communication, including using the wrong tools or efforts that aren’t audience-centered, can give supporters the vibe that you don’t care. However, if done well, nonprofits can really reap the benefits from their communication strategies.

“Your purpose or intention is important. Every piece of communication, even fundraising letters, can be a relationship-building tool,” Green said.

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