In today’s day and age, there are many different opportunities to share a non-profit organization’s messages. Every day, non-profits use several different mediums to target multiple audiences. Sometimes, this is done in a hodge podge manner and a non-profit’s messages end up lacking consistency and polish.
A communications plan is one of the most important documents for a non-profit to create. It is directly linked to the more prominent strategic plan. The communications plan provides clarity and focus limiting communications to the most important messages and audiences.
The strategic directions outlined in the strategic plan shape the main messages that a non-profit will convey. An example of a strategic direction might be to “increase membership”. The strategic direction to increase membership forms a main message about the benefits of membership and how to join. On average, a main message consists of one to five statements of core information. Once the main message is developed it is disseminated to target audiences.
There are certain people, internally and externally, who are receptive to a non-profit’s messages. Usually, a non-profit organization communicates with employees, volunteers, members, clients, donors, complementary organizations, government, and the general public. Each of these target audiences expect relevant information and appreciate it when main messages are tailored to their needs. For example, a donor doesn’t need to receive an employee newsletter.
Accordingly, the communications plan identifies proper communications channels and considers engagement levels. For example, the board of directors decides that its website is an adequate portal for potential donors, but that volunteer assignments require live discussions. Leveraging technology may be a good idea for some aspects of external communications and in-person meetings may be necessary for some internal communications and vice versa. The communications plan defines how the non-profit will communicate in different situations.
Internally, the line of communications between the board, employees, and volunteers is clearly defined. The board develops the internal process for communications and supports it with policies and procedures. The communications plan is taught until all employees and volunteers are clear on how information is to be circulated. Be sure to include feedback mechanisms since true communications is a two-way street.
Externally, the communications plan serves members, clients, donors, complementary organizations, government, and the public at large. Again, the main messages are derived from the strategic directions defined in the strategic plan. The board develops the external process for communications and supports it with policies and procedures.
A lot of thought is put into the communications plan. Understand who you need to reach, prioritize what you need to tell them (main messages), how you’ll reach them, how they can reach you, and who’s responsible for different aspects of the communications plan. For example, the Communications Prime is the individual designated as the point of contact for the media. An alternate spokesperson is necessary for situations when the Communications Prime is unavailable. In most cases, this role is the responsibility of the Board Chair or Executive Director, but others might be appointed to carry out these communications duties.
Sometimes, we forget how important controlled communications can be to a non-profit organization. The reputation and brand of a non-profit organization can be its most valuable asset. Remember to protect the non-profit organization at all times. Prepare everyone involved to utilize the communications plan. Those who are responsible for communicating on your non-profit’s behalf should receive training. Having a communications plan helps a non-profit to be more efficient and operate in a less hodge podge manner.
There are so many ways to share a non-profit’s messages. Invite clarity and focus into your communications by creating a communications plan. It serves to ensure that your target audiences receive the facts through concise main messages at the right time through the best mediums.