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Nonprofit Communication Best Practices To Make Communications More Impactful

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Published: Dec 23, 2020

“Please support us!” 

If you plan to send this message to prospects, it’s highly unlikely that they will. And you don’t want that. 

Communication is critical to the success of your nonprofit. But complacency doesn’t get you too far. 

What you need is a highly efficient nonprofit communication plan that is up to date with the current best practices. That’s where this post will help. 

We’ll go over seven nonprofit communications best practices that are relevant (and highly essential) in current times. 

Nonprofit communications best practices

When we talk about nonprofit communications, there are two types that you need to consider: 

  1. Donor communications
  2. Internal communications

Nonprofits have to excel at both to ensure success. Here are some best practices that you should follow for both.

Donor communication best practices

Any communication that is sent out to donors is termed as donor communications. This typically includes:

Here are some donor communications best practices that apply to all.

1. Personalize your conversations

Whether you’re sending out an appeal or a thank-you letter, your messaging has to be personalized. 

72% of people say they only engage with personalized messaging. A nonprofit’s success is directly proportional to the relationship they have with donors. The more donors engage with you, the stronger the relationship. 

A few simple ways to personalize donor communications are by: 

  • Addressing them by their name. 
  • Communicating with them as an individual and not an organization. 
  • Referring to their previous involvement with the organization in the message.

All of this can be easily accomplished by segmenting your contact lists. To learn more about how you can do this, refer to this article on list segmentation.

2. Use donor-centric language

“Make donors your heroes, and they’ll always come to your rescue!”. 

Follow this rule whenever you’re crafting your messaging for donors. This is the foundation of a donor-centric language. 

Everyone loves to be valued. It sends out a rush of emotions that people crave for. A donor-centric tone does that for your donors. The more you value them, the more they are likely to return. 

It’s quite easy to switch your general messaging to donor-centric messaging. Rather than talking about what you are accomplishing, talk about how the donor’s support is helping you accomplish your mission. In some instances, it’s as easy as substituting the “We” with “You.” 

Here are a few examples:

Not donor-centricDonor-centric
We are saving lives.You are saving lives.
Our work is changing lives.Your gift is changing lives.
We helped people by providing them with essential supplies.Your gift helped us provide people with essential supplies.
Please help us fund our efforts for cancer research.Please fund cancer research.

3. Encourage conversations

A good relationship is built from a good conversation. If you’re not engaging with your donors in two-way conversations, you’ll lose them.

Imagine this, someone asks you for money. Convinced that they need it, you do. They thank you, and you never hear from them again. Until, after a while, they come back and ask for your help again. How would that make you feel? Would you help them again? 

However, if after the first gift, if they check up on you regularly, genuinely care about you, wouldn’t you be more likely to support them again? 

This is what you achieve with two-way communication. Here are a few ways you can engage donors in a conversation: 

  • Get their feedback (on anything, your work, the fundraising process, etc.).
  • Ask for more details about them (this can be used to personalize future conversations).
  • Ask them about what inspired their gifts and use that as a testimonial to inspire others. 

How to have two-way conversations efficiently?
If you want to engage people in conversations, you need to connect with them over a channel that:

  • Allows you to have personal, one-to-one conversations
  • They actually read, and the message doesn’t get lost in the digital noise

There are two channels that best fit these criteria: Texts and phone calls.
However, phone calls may require a lot of volunteers to man the phones and call everyone. This leaves us with texts.
With two-way texting, you can engage all donors in personal conversations on scale. It helps you collect data, feedback, and other information you need. 
For more details on how to implement this, refer to this post on two-way texting

4. Leverage multiple channels for communication

A multichannel approach is one of the most important nonprofit communications best practices that you need to follow. There are two reasons for this:

  1. You reach a larger audience. Some donors may prefer a phone call, whereas others may prefer a text. To reach both groups, you need to plan for both channels and all others that donors prefer.
  2. Different channels serve as reminders to reinforce your message. People are exposed to so many applications that it’s easy to forget what they saw on the last one. A person reading an email may be distracted by a social media notification and forget the email. Conveying your message over multiple channels serves as subtle reminders to ensure donors don’t forget you. 

While email marketing is quite common among nonprofits, the three channels that you absolutely need to leverage now are:

  • Social media – because of its large user base that gives you access to new audiences.
  • Text messaging – given its high open-rate (98%) that ensures your message is read.
  • Telephone – because of the personal nature of conversations, it allows you to have.

5. Wrap your messaging in a story

When you communicate with donors, you want the conversation to have a lasting impact, something they remember. Wrapping your message in a story helps you do that. 

A study showed that people are 22 times more likely to remember a story than facts. Moreover, stories are also more emotionally arousing and are more effective in inspiring action

When crafting a story, a few elements that make it more compelling are: 

  • An individual victim who needs help. Generally, a donor may not resonate as well with a group of people who need help.
  • Powerful visuals to support the story. 
  • A strong call-to-action
  • Expected changes through action

For more insights on creating powerful messaging using storytelling, check out this post on Nonprofit storytelling

Internal communications best practices

Internal communications refer to any communication among your

  • Staff
  • Volunteers
  • Board members

Here are a few nonprofit communications best practices for conversations among the team. 

1. Encourage interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication fuels better relationships among staff, which in turn leads to better efficiency. 

Since everyone is working towards a common goal, their efforts can’t be disjointed. If you want their efforts to be aligned, they need to know what each person does and how their work fits into the picture. This can only be achieved by encouraging people to be more open with each other. 

Here are a few ways you can motivate internal communication more effectively: 

  • Set up a dedicated communication channel where all teams can come together to discuss their issues and work. Typically a Slack channel or Text Group would be beneficial. 
  • Conduct weekly meetings where teams come together to discuss what they did and what they achieved.  
  • Group people from different teams and set up a virtual meet for casual conversations. 

2. Have a constant feedback loop

As a board member or team leader, the ground reality may often be very different from what you may have envisioned. 

For instance, in a telephone fundraising campaign, you may plan for ten calls for a volunteer in one day. But each call may go on for a longer duration rendering them unable to complete all.

When that happens, your planning could go for a toss, leaving your campaigns in chaos. Getting feedback from your staffers and volunteers about each task can help you avoid this. 

Here are a few ways you can set up this feedback collection system in your organization:

  • Set up a dedicated communication channel where people can instantly mention the issues they are facing. Again, a Slack channel or Text group would come in handy here. 
  • Send out a feedback form for everyone to fill on a regular basis. You can send it out on a weekly basis to people handling time-sensitive tasks and a monthly basis for others. 

When it comes to internal communications, SMS can be quite an efficient channel to leverage. While you can have personal conversations, it also allows you to automate conversations like collecting feedback or other data. 
To learn more about using SMS for staff communication, refer to this post on Internal SMS

To conclude

Communication is the backbone of your nonprofit. All your efforts, including fundraising, generating awareness, volunteer recruitment, etc., are driven by strong communication. 

Following the above nonprofit communication best practices will strengthen your communication to ensure maximum efficiency and impact. 
Featured image source: Pixabay

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