The Yukon is chock-full of good people. People who work full-time, have busy families, yet still have time to give back to their community by volunteering for various non-profit organizations. We can all think of at least one that has impacted us directly – Women’s Transition Home, Wildwise, Yukon Invasive Species Council, Whitehorse Firefighters Charitable Society, Crimestoppers – the list goes on. But for many of these smaller NPOs, the challenge lies in limited resources and time, which causes them to put their communications on the back burner. But my friends, I’m here to tell you that communication needs to be a top priority, because without it, you won’t be able to achieve your three important goals: telling people what it is you do, why they should care, and how they can join you. By considering these 5 best practices, your NPO can be well on its way to achieving these critical goals.
The temptation many organizations have is to simply pump out information – get it out there and hope it will “stick” where and when needed. Unfortunately there’s very little sticking going on in these situations. In reality, in order for communication to get through to its intended audience you need to do more. You need a plan. Start by determining your overarching communication goals, then zero in on your audience. Think about who are you are trying to reach. What message do those people need to hear and how will they best receive it? Once you figure that out, answer your audience’s biggest question: What’s in it for me? Why should I care? As an NPO you need to develop strong messages that reflect the authentic benefits, both functional and emotional, that you will provide to your audience, so they can connect in a relational way. Now turn all of those answers into a workable communication plan – one that is practical, affordable and gets potential partners and the larger community on board.
With increased competition for resources, NPOs need to find ways to set them apart and to do that, they need to get branded. When I say branding, I’m talking about more than just getting a nice logo designed. A brand is everything your organization embodies. It’s what sets you apart, it’s the platform on which your organization is known. In other words, it’s what other people say about you when you’re not in the room. People fall in love with brands, trust them and believe in their superiority. Not only that, volunteers and members are more likely to stick around when they can be part of a brand that can be seen to have a strong sense of its own vision and purpose, one that also aligns with their personal values and goals. A strong brand also helps to keep top-of-mind awareness for media and potential donors.
You might be asking, isn’t marketing just for businesses trying to sell a product? Not always. If your audience doesn’t know what it is you are trying to achieve, how can you expect anyone to become a member or consider donating? There are a few ways to get your message out there. There is direct marketing which includes newsletters, emails, or direct mail. Relationship marketing is getting your message to your audience in an emotional way, and can be done through online advertising, or through content marketing. Content marketing can be as simple as writing a blog, Facebook posts, or just creating good, read-worthy content on your website. The most effective and cost-saving marketing is to generate content that other people will share online for you. You can read more about that here.
It’s the 21st century. The world is online, and you need to be, too. A website or online presence is a must. If you go the website route, make sure it’s mobile friendly. People are looking at websites primarily on their mobile devices, and they are going to get frustrated if they can’t navigate your site once they land there. Additionally, visitors are more likely to interact with your page if it’s user friendly, interesting, and dynamic. There are many free, template-based webhosts like Squarespace, Wix or Wordpress that make website building easy or companies, like ours, that can do the work for you.
If you are going to use social media, it’s important to use it properly. Solely having a profile online will not increase awareness about your organization or help you reach your goals. According to research, NPOs are primarily using their online profiles to give out information, but they are not trying to build relationships with their followers. But the authors suggest three ways to cultivate relationships online:
Disclosure – People expect openness and transparency. Try to include as much information as you can on your profile: logos, mission statements, hours, board members and links to websites or more info.
Content – Post links, photos, videos and any other content that is relevant to your followers. Don’t just sell them information, give them a reason to follow you.
Interact – Ask for email addresses, respond to comments and just be plain social.
It’s a lot to take in, but if the highest goal for any NPO is to ultimately better their community, it’s important to make communicating that goal top priority. While resources and staff can be thin, keeping these best practices in mind will help to generate awareness and ultimately increase the bottom line. With many opportunities for funding available perhaps you could consider amping up your communication a New Years Resolution.