The Ingredients of a Successful Nonprofit Communications Initiative

5 min read

Your nonprofit has a new strategic plan, and one of the major objectives falls right into your marketing wheelhouse. Your nonprofit is renaming; you need to update your messaging to better reflect your mission; your organization has a major upcoming anniversary; or there’s finally a recognized need to develop a comprehensive marketing plan.

When your priorities are integrated into your strategic plan, as a nonprofit marketer, you have a huge opportunity to continue to prove the value of marketing at your nonprofit. So, what can you do to ensure your upcoming initiative goes smoothly? Here are the ingredients for success.

Establish a communications committee

As soon as you’ve made the decision to move forward with a major marketing initiative at your nonprofit, establish a communications committee. This is an active group of internal stakeholders who will be involved in the strategic communications process from start to finish.

In addition to your marketing team, we recommend committee members include a combination of key leadership, board members, staff, volunteers and clients, if appropriate.  It’s the communications committee’s responsibility to meet regularly to provide input on your work related to the initiative. More importantly, you’ll be bringing in multiple perspectives from within your organization to build consensus and cohesion regarding your marketing effort. You’ll also be empowering others at your nonprofit to become ambassadors for your work and your brand, which are both essential to moving your nonprofit’s mission forward.

Consider your time

Of course, a major initiative will take a considerable amount of your time; don’t underestimate it. I’ve seen many major initiatives fall to the back burner simply due to poor resource planning. Try to think about the number of hours per week you’ll need to dedicate to this effort. Now think about the amount of time your team needs to dedicate as well as anyone else within your nonprofit who needs to be involved in this process like your executive director, your board chair ad others. How much time will they need to dedicate for input and meetings? Use this information to set your project milestones and checkpoints and to manage your time and internal resources. When requests from outside your department continue to flow in, remember to lean in on your strategic plan for help with prioritization.

Set milestones and checkpoints

Host a formal project kickoff meeting with your communications committee. During the meeting, make sure everyone is on the same page about project milestones, goals, deliverables and outcomes. Gain consensus regarding how often the committee will meet and define the expectations for each meeting. Setting expectations together with your communications committee at the outset, and continuing to point back to a shared timeline and goals throughout, will help you keep your marketing initiatives on track and moving forward.

As you’re setting these milestones and checkpoints, compare them to the calendar of events and other marketing initiatives at your nonprofit. Make sure you’re not planning major project milestones in parallel with events, annual fundraising efforts, board meetings, and other things that are going to take significant time and energy from your team or others within your nonprofit.

Develop a unified communications plan and goals

Following your kickoff meeting, put together a project plan that outlines the milestones and checkpoints you established with your communications committee. Include the project goals and objectives within this plan and then outline the steps you’re going to take to meet them.

You can also include any research you have to support the project as well as information on target audiences involved, specific project related key messages as well as your tactical marketing calendar for this initiative. Within the calendar, also include who is responsible for the execution of each task, so you can maintain accountability.

Circulate this plan to your communications committee and request any additional input. By getting everything centralized into a plan, you can ensure everyone is on the same page, literally. Then, you can use this plan as a guide for each one of the meetings you have with your communications committee moving forward.

Set a clear project end date

The old “stop and start” and its cousin “analysis paralysis” can waste countless hours and quickly turn weeks into months and months into years. The most successful projects require momentum. If you’re renaming your organization, when will you do the “big reveal?” What is the timeline for rolling out new messaging? Setting a clear end date is the best way to create urgency.

The old “stop and start” and its cousin “analysis paralysis” can waste countless hours and quickly turn weeks into months and months into years. The most successful projects require momentum. Click To Tweet

Evaluate your success

During your kickoff meeting, ask yourself and your communications committee, “What will indicate to us that this initiative is successful?” An increase in fundraising dollars? New donors? Receptivity to our new brand? Then, determine how you will measure these things, and within what timeframe. At Prosper Strategies, we set SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.

Include these success metrics in your marketing plan for the initiative. Setting these types of key performance indicators (KPIs) for your campaign will help you understand the parts of your project that were most successful and areas where you can improve next time. More importantly, this information will help you make the case for future marketing initiatives at your nonprofit.

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