Nonprofit communications refers to all the tactics a nonprofit implements to communicate with stakeholders and promote its cause. A full communication plan should address fundraising, events, mission, and more. The plan should lay out the media channels it will use, including social media, email, direct mail, and more.
- Nonprofit Communication vs. Corporate Communication
- 4 Types of Nonprofit Communication
- Developing Your Nonprofit Communications Plan: 5 Steps
- 3 Helpful Nonprofit Communication Tools & Resources
At Getting Attention, we help nonprofits market to and communicate with supporters using the Google Ad Grants program. Through the program, we help nonprofits use their free, $10,000 in Google Ads to reach new supporters, engage current donors, and strengthen relationships. Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.
Nonprofit Communication vs. Corporate Communication
Many different industries rely on external communication, but it’s important to understand how your strategy should differ from that of a for-profit business. Here are four key differences between corporate and nonprofit communications:
- Making a Difference vs. Making a Profit: Nonprofits are driven by a cause beyond money, whereas businesses are driven by the bottom line. Center your nonprofit communication efforts around supporting missions rather than driving sales.
- Types of Stakeholders: Stakeholders are all the groups connected to and impacted by an organization, and different types of stakeholders will be engaged by different communication strategies. Nonprofit stakeholders include employees, board members, donors, volunteers, and program beneficiaries while corporate stakeholders can be employees, consumers, executives, and investors.
- Sources of Revenue: While a nonprofit relies on donations and grants for funds, corporations rely on consumer purchases and sales figures. Given this difference, nonprofits usually have a more limited budget to support their communication efforts.
The goal of all of your nonprofit’s external communications should be to inform the outside world about your organization, its mission, and the importance of its work. Now that we’ve separated nonprofit communication from corporate communication, let’s take a look at five distinct types of nonprofit communication.
4 Types of Nonprofit Communication
Storytelling makes your communications more effective, engaging, and emotional to your donors. They’re also more likely to remember a message from your nonprofit if it includes a story. Studies show that 55% of consumers are more likely to remember a story rather than a list of facts. In the crowded marketing landscape, standing out is more important than ever.
These examples show how nonprofits can incorporate storytelling:
- A university could share quotes from both current and former students about what the school means to them and how their time as a student impacted them.
- Animal shelters can ask people who have adopted a pet from your shelter about the difference their pet has made in their lives.
- Food banks could talk to volunteers about the work they do and what it means to them to give back.
Don’t forget to be creative and dig deep to find the most compelling stories. Prioritize quality writing, and incorporate powerful images and videos when possible.
Marketing describes nonprofit communication tactics that have the goal of motivating target audiences to take action. These actions should further your mission in some way.
Some of the next actions you might encourage your audience to take include:
- Making a donation
- Registering to volunteer
- Signing up for your newsletter
- Purchasing your branded merchandise
- Becoming a monthly donor
- Claiming a ticket to an event
As you plan your strategy, keep in mind that your primary goal with a marketing campaign is to encourage your stakeholders to actively participate in your cause. Next, let’s look at a specific act of participation: fundraising.
Communicating about your fundraisers can be complex, as it requires contact with a variety of audiences across many different communication channels. Your organization will need to tailor its outreach to your audience’s preferences and unique traits.
While you can get as granular as you like with personalizing communications to recipients, here are the three basic audiences you’ll address:
- Current Donors: Receiving a donation is great, and retaining that support over time is critical. After all, it costs less to retain an existing donor than it does to gain a new one. Be sure to maintain consistent communication with current donors (ideally across more than one communication channel) to boost the chances that they’ll give again.
- Potential Donors: To expand your supporter base, grow funding, and increase your volunteering capacity, you’ll need to reach new donors who have never engaged with your cause. It can be tricky to build trust with donors who have never heard of your organization before. However, you can build social proof by centering testimonials from other donors or publicly recognizing influential donors.
- Corporations: Did you know corporations donated $21.08 billion to nonprofits in 2022? Use this giving power to your advantage by directing fundraising communication efforts toward for-profit businesses. Spread awareness of the many different philanthropic programs, such as matching gifts, with your audience.
Even after a successful fundraising campaign, communication is still relevant. Check out this guide from eCardWidget to learn how your organization can upgrade its donor thank-you emails.
This type of communication relies on starting conversations with your audiences. Engagement builds a relationship with your audience beyond simply asking them for money. Cultivating connection with stakeholders that exists separate from monetary goals is key to fostering deep, trusting relationships that yield long-term donors.
There are so many ways to motivate donors to engage, from adding a “click here!” button to a marketing email to feature polls on your nonprofit’s Instagram stories. Get creative, make engaging convenient, and be sure to offer a variety of ways to engage.
Developing Your Nonprofit Communication Plan: 5 Steps
1. Determine Overarching Goals
A communication plan is a set of strategies developed for your nonprofit’s unique needs and goals with the purpose of reaching and engaging supporters. The first step to creating an effective communication plan is careful goal setting.
Define your goals according to the SMART goals framework. This method suggests that goals should be:
By setting a goal within these parameters, you’ll ensure that each objective is attainable within your campaign timeline. An example of a SMART goal could be aiming to improve social media engagement by 20% by posting twice a week, creating posts like polls that encourage interaction, and responding to comments within 24 hours.
2. Establish Your Brand
Many aspects of your nonprofit communication tactics will be tailored to fit each audience, but your brand messaging should remain consistent across all efforts.
To keep branding consistent in communications, include your nonprofit’s:
- Tagline (also called a slogan by for-profit businesses)
- Visual branded elements like specific colors, fonts, and imagery
To ensure these elements remain consistent no matter who creates or posts content at your nonprofit, create a media or branding kit. Include the appropriate use cases and image files for your logo, the Hex codes for your brand colors, and the names of the fonts you use.
Here’s our example of a nonprofit branding kit:
3. Analyze Data
Your communication strategy should always be backed by data. Without it, you could be making guesses about your audience that aren’t true, leaving you without the positive results you were hoping for.
Take a look at data from your nonprofit’s past communication efforts. What was successful, and what could be better? Use what you learn to refine future plans and understand trends. For example, maybe you noticed that donations to your food pantry spike around holidays like Thanksgiving. To capitalize on this increased engagement, ramp up the frequency of your communications and aim to reach untapped audiences.
4. Define Target Audiences
For best results, communication tactics should be tailored to who you want to reach, as stakeholders are not a homogenous group. For example, members of Generation Z will likely have different communication preferences than Baby Boomers.
Defining target audiences becomes a lot easier with the help of a robust donor database. You can keep track of demographics, contact information, employer data, income, and location all in one place. You can also look at past donation data to figure out who your biggest supporters are.
With the help of data analytics, you can avoid making guesses about your donors and build communication strategies that appeal to their real motivations for giving to your cause.
5. Choose Channels
From email to social media to direct mail and beyond, the nonprofit communication possibilities are endless. To reach more supporters and establish multiple touchpoints with them, it’s ideal to use an omnichannel approach.
This strategy should provide a seamless experience for your audience. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make your strategy a success:
- Keep your branding, tone, and theme consistent across all platforms.
- Plot out a donor journey that smoothly guides your supporters through the donor funnel.
- Lean on low-cost, digital marketing channels like social media to maximize your impact—with a little work, your social media page could be worth more than a paid ad in a newspaper.
- Use A/B testing to determine which strategies resonate with your audience.
Remember to link your marketing messages together to bridge the gap between communication channels—particularly traditional and digital channels. For example, you could add a QR code linking to your virtual donation form on a piece of direct mail. Conversely, you can add a form to your website that allows supporters to sign up to receive a tangible newsletter in the mail.
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3 Helpful Nonprofit Communication Tools & Resources
Once your nonprofit has a communications plan in place, it’s time to execute. But, it can be challenging (and time-consuming) to manage an entire communications strategy on your own.
To make the process easier, here are a few popular tools and resources to check out:
- Content calendars: Plan out your content for the entire month, including the type of content, the platform it will be posted on, when the content will go live, and what message will be included. Not only will this keep everything organized, but it will also help you plan accordingly to ensure each message is created on time. To get started, you can download a free template or invest in dedicated project management software.
- Graphic design tools: Sleek graphics and crystal-clear photos are what get you noticed in the digital world. You can easily design custom graphics for your nonprofit (or adapt templates to fit your branding) with tools like Canva. If you need additional support, consider working with a graphic design agency.
- Google Ad Grants: This program is a great resource for qualifying nonprofits. The grant provides $10,000 in free Google Ads, allowing your nonprofit to target relevant keywords and drive Google users to your website. For the best results, work with a Google Ad Grants agency to help you apply for the grant, maintain compliance, research keywords, and manage campaigns.
To learn more, check out our video that covers the basics of the Google Ad Grants program:
Effective, compelling communication is vital to running a successful nonprofit organization. By building connections with target audiences, you’ll cultivate trusting, loyal relationships with donors that help further your mission. To reach more of these audience members and make your marketing budget go further, reach out to Getting Attention for help with the Google Ad Grants program.
For more helpful information on nonprofit marketing strategy, check out these additional resources:
- Getting Started with YouTube for Nonprofits in 3 Steps. If you’re interested in taking advantage of the benefits of video marketing, check out our guide to getting started.
- Nonprofit Marketing: A Guide for Amplifying Your Mission. Looking for an in-depth introduction to marketing for nonprofits? Read on to learn more about furthering your mission through marketing.
- Charity Marketing: How to Spread Your Nonprofit’s Message. This step-by-step guide lays out the tasks your organization will need to complete in order to plan and launch a successful charity marketing campaign.