Why Strong Communication is Critical to Nonprofit efforts
We need mission-driven organizations. We need our mission-driven sector.
Mission-driven organizations provide care, intervention, enrichment, inspiration, and critical resources to every community. You or someone you love has been impacted by organizations working to make their community better, solve an intractable problem, and build momentum towards a bigger future.
But most (if not all) mission-driven organizations fail to get the recognition they deserve for the work they do.
This is not an issue of credit. (If only parades could really help us solve our problems!)
Limited visibility and limited recognition lead to limited resources and a limited trajectory.
These are real structural disadvantages these organizations need to reckon with. But these structural disadvantages are not destiny.
The following four areas every mission-driven organization could benefit by addressing.
The Who Cares Problem
When you work on a particular issue, week in and week out, for years – it becomes self-evident why someone would care about it. Your colleagues, your board, and the stakeholders you serve are invested – which creates an echo chamber.
Not everyone understands your echo chamber.
The end result? Focusing on details and nuances that don’t translate to the average person or your key audiences.
The quick fix: Ask (truly) “who cares? Why would they care? How can we help them care?”
The Problem of Resource Perception
Most mission-driven organizations are formed to address specific needs. Its services and programs take precedent in attention, funding, and staffing.
And this makes sense. To a point.
If the focus on programming limits growth or endangers stability, the focus on programming is self-sabotaging.
Many organizations do have sufficient resources to invest in communications strategy and execution. They just don’t think they do. Consider the time and resources to tell the story about your community impact as ‘investments’, not ‘overhead.’
The quick fix: Think five years out: what kinds of problems do you want to solve? Robust communication plans now help ensure you have more resources and supporters later.
If communications are everyone’s job, then communications are nobody’s job. The work of aligning strategy, voice, platform, content, and analysis requires time, focus, and expertise. A dedicated communications staff, or a trusted agency partner, will transform how your organization tells its story.
Building capacity on your staff allows programming and operations staff to focus on what they do best. Invest in capacity because capacity leads to growth.
The quick fix: reframe ‘essential’ to your mission as ‘essential’ to your organization. Your organization does the work. But has needs beyond the mission alone.
Brand is not a dirty word
Granted, ‘brand’ is still a corporate buzzword. Partly because of the power branding holds.
Defining what your organization is and is not, and building structure and strategy into that identity creates your brand.
What do you support? What kinds of images do you use? What tone do you use in public? Who are you trying to engage?
These questions help solidify who you are to the outside world and will ultimately attract your audience to you.
The quick fix: exchange the word ‘identity’ for ‘brand.’ It’ll do wonders for your mindset.
The mission-driven sector provides essential, life-changing services. Strategic communications lay the foundation for stability, growth, and influence.
o Think outside your organization.
o Communications are mission-critical. Prioritize them.
o Think about the future and plan for it in tangible ways
o Brand = Identity
And your organization, and the world, will benefit.