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How to Strengthen Your Nonprofit Communications & Development Strategies

Non­prof­it com­mu­ni­ca­tions is about words. Devel­op­ment is about num­bers. The teams from each are from dif­fer­ent worlds and speak dif­fer­ent lan­guages, right? Maybe; but they’re strongest and most effec­tive when every­thing is aligned.

Bell­mont Part­ners strate­gic part­ner Mo Cahill and I had the hon­or of pre­sent­ing a break­out ses­sion at the Min­neso­ta Coun­cil of Non­prof­its’ (MCN) first-ever Advance­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Tech­nol­o­gy Con­fer­ence (ACT­con) on Sep­tem­ber 16. While it was orig­i­nal­ly planned to be in-per­son, the MCN team did a phe­nom­e­nal job coor­di­nat­ing every­thing into a two-day vir­tu­al con­fer­ence for this COVID-19 world.

We shared some strate­gies and tips to demon­strate that when com­mu­ni­ca­tions and devel­op­ment work togeth­er, it can lead to height­ened aware­ness and under­stand­ing, and ulti­mate­ly, more dol­lars for an orga­ni­za­tion – a true triple threat. Because the lines between com­mu­ni­ca­tions, mar­ket­ing and fundrais­ing are blur­ri­er than ever, it’s impor­tant to earn devo­tion and funds from sup­port­ers. Strate­gies shared include the cru­cial role of:

  • Devel­op­ing clear, con­cise mes­sag­ing. The impor­tance of uni­fied exter­nal mes­sag­ing about who you serve and what your mis­sion is can­not be stressed enough – and the more quick­ly you can get your point across, the bet­ter. When there are no key mes­sages, every­one tells their own ver­sion of what they think the mis­sion is – and dif­fer­ences in mes­sag­ing can result in con­fu­sion among donors, which could lead to doubt­ing the organization’s cred­i­bil­i­ty and missed oppor­tu­ni­ties to secure vital funds.
  • Hold­ing joint quar­ter­ly meet­ings with the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and devel­op­ment teams. Get­ting every­one in the same room (or on the same Zoom screen) gives you a ded­i­cat­ed amount of time to ask impor­tant ques­tions and plan for the upcom­ing month, quar­ter or year. Ask each oth­er ques­tions like: What cam­paigns are com­ing up? What key mes­sages do com­mu­ni­ca­tions want to push? What key mes­sages do devel­op­ment want to push? What are we strug­gling to com­mu­ni­cate right now? Align your goals to ensure your exter­nal efforts are unified.
  • Using focus groups to test images and mes­sages. These can be as infor­mal as a phone call to a friend, men­tor or for­mer col­league; or as for­mal as a facil­i­tat­ed group dis­cus­sion with orga­ni­za­tion stake­hold­ers. Get­ting out­side per­spec­tives from folks who aren’t part of the day-to-day oper­a­tions can lead to inter­est­ing per­spec­tives that ulti­mate­ly strength­en your approach to gain­ing aware­ness and donations.
  • Telling your sto­ry across var­i­ous plat­forms. Tell poten­tial donors about the peo­ple behind your orga­ni­za­tion. From clients and employ­ees to board mem­bers and vol­un­teers, your orga­ni­za­tion is like­ly full of per­son­al con­nec­tions and sto­ries that you can slice-and-dice into longer-form blog posts or short­er social media posts. Churn­ing out new sto­ries that are impact­ful and share­able can help oth­ers help you tug at the heart­strings (and pock­et­books) of donors.

At the end of the day, every­one at your non­prof­it is work­ing toward the same mis­sion, so it’s impor­tant to uni­fy efforts to ensure you’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing as effec­tive­ly as possible.

These tips could all be ben­e­fi­cial as we look ahead to Give to the Max Day (GTMD) on Novem­ber 19. Our agency has helped our Min­neso­ta non­prof­it clients and friends with GTMD strate­gies since the giv­ing event’s incep­tion – and now is the time to start plan­ning for it if you haven’t already begun!

In 2019, we host­ed some non­prof­it clients and friends for a GTMD strat­e­gy ses­sion and cel­e­bra­tion. Since we can’t do that this year, we’d love to extend an invi­ta­tion for no-cost, no-oblig­a­tion con­sul­ta­tions with mem­bers of our Non­prof­it Prac­tice Group. If you need help deter­min­ing your strat­e­gy, or just want to bounce ideas off of some­one with an out­side per­spec­tive, please email us. We’re more than hap­py to brain­storm with you to help reach both your com­mu­ni­ca­tions and devel­op­ment goals!

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Photo Credit: Minnesota Grown
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