Eight communication habits of successful not-for-profits

Communication habits

I frequently come across organisations who are doing great things, but who forget to tell their story to the outside world. They’re making life more difficult for themselves, and their efforts could even be doomed to fail.

How successful organisations communicate

You’ll probably know a few organisations who are poor communicators, and I have worked with some myself. With just a little thought and planning, they could be achieving so much more. I’ve based the following ideas mainly on charitable and not-for-profit organisations, but many of them are equally relevant to businesses too.

To be successful, organisations:

1. Need to share

I once worked with a charity who did many great things behind the scenes, but they were forgetting to share this with their members. As a result, memberships weren’t being renewed, the charity was struggling to attract volunteers, and members weren’t really engaging again after their initial contact with the organisation. The simple act of letting people know what was going on, using a range of communications, changed all that.

2. Repeat the message

It’s perhaps easier to visualise this point if instead of wearing a marketer’s hat, you put yourself in the shoes of the charity’s user. If you see one tweet that contains a vital piece of news, it’s unlikely you’ll take much notice, unless you’re really motivated by the subject. We’re all bombarded with so much information these days that a message needs to be repeated, and in multiple places, before people will take notice.

3. Maintain a consistent tone of voice

Very often, written communications are created by a number of different staff or volunteers within an organisation. That’s fine, but they do still need to be consistent. Unless your organisation has a very distinctive tone of voice, a warm professional tone will often go down well. And ‘professional’ doesn’t mean complicated either – keep things simple! Creating a ‘tone of voice guide’ within your style guide may be helpful here.

4. Communicate internally as well as externally

If your organisation doesn’t communicate well internally, how will your staff and volunteers know what’s going on? How can they then pass this on to members, potential members, donors and the community? They can’t. This can cause huge problems and resentment, especially if people feel left out. Make internal communication a priority.

5. Use social media appropriately

It can look very awkward if charities don’t stick to the conventions of each social media platform they use. For example, be conversational on Twitter. Don’t distribute the same tweet to many different Twitter handles as this can be very annoying for followers. They key is to watch what others do online before posting.

6. Have a plan and stick to it

I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate too much on the need for planning, but it is vital to work out what you want to achieve and how you are going to do so. This also helps you allocate your resources (people, time, money) and get people in place at the right time.

7. Take care of spelling and grammar

I’m not appalled if I see someone make the very occasional mistake, however, regular spelling and grammatical errors can seriously detract from what you are writing, and damage your credibility or that of your organisation. If you know this is an issue, you should address it.

8. Seek feedback, measure and improve

Some organisations seem frightened to ask for feedback on their communications, but it’s the only way of understanding what your audience truly wants and to improve your offering (or at the very least, stay up-to-date). Measurement is also key, and in the digital age there are more opportunities than ever for doing this on social media, websites etc.

The issues discussed here are surprisingly common, and it can be difficult to sell the case for improvement to those who don’t value communications in the way they deserve. For that reason, I’ve produced the following infographic based on these eight good habits – please feel free to share widely!

8 communication habits of successful not-for-profits

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One Response to Eight communication habits of successful not-for-profits

  1. Janine
    Janine June 24, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

    Whether you’re a business, public sector organisation or not-for-profit, don’t let all your hard work go to waste just because you didn’t let others know what you were doing – it can be so easy to get bogged down in the detail, so if you’re struggling, do seek the help of someone outside of your organisation to get you back on track.

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