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!