Who do you want to talk to, and what do you want to say?
All your good, hard work won't bring in the money if no-one knows
about it. So how do you keep your current donors informed and excited
about what you're doing? And how do you get new people excited about
supporting your work? It's all about communications.
For starters, you'll need a communications plan. This document
spells out the details of what you want to communicate, who you want to
reach, and how you will reach them.
Putting a plan in writing and sharing it with staff and volunteers
helps keep everyone aware of the need to spread the word about the good
work you're doing.
Communication Plan 101
A basic communication plan includes:
- Your communication goal: Something like — “educating the
public about animal welfare issues and building our institutional image
as a vibrant, upbeat organization working effectively and imaginatively
to make the community a better place for both animals and people. ”
- Your target audiences: Include present donors and
known prospects as well as subgroups (demographic and those with
various interests) within the community who have a potential to become
- Your program agenda: List all of your programs,
services or events that support your communications goal and have the
potential to inspire financial support.
- Vehicles available for getting the word out:
- Include vehicles that primarily reach your existing donors and known prospects, such as your newsletter, website, and events (yes, your events say a lot about who you are).
- Also include vehicles that reach out to the general public, such as the print and broadcast media and social networking sites.
- A communication calendar: In the rush of daily
activities, it's easy to let getting the word out fall off the radar.
You can avoid this by preparing a calendar that includes:
- Each program or event you want to promote,
- The dates when you want to promote it,
- The vehicles you intend to use, and
- Who will actually make sure the promotion gets done. (This is the biggie, naturally.)
- A communication timeline: Set up a timeline identifying
who you want to contact and when so that you have measurable benchmarks
for meeting your communication goals.
As you develop your plan, and begin to execute it, be sure to keep
referring back to your communication goal. You don't want to waste
valuable time and talent on promotions that won't build your image.
Support Your Fundraising Plan with Your Communication Plan
Keep all your communications — whether through newspaper stories and TV coverage or through appeal letters — in sync and working together to convey your messages.
This enables your agency to speak with a louder and clearer voice than
if you have many different messages competing with each other.
For example, according to your fundraising plan, your
spring appeal letter is about the need for funds going into kitten
season and the increased number of animals you'll need to help. Your
communications support for the appeal might be press releases or web
content about how to get involved by fostering cats and kittens or wish
lists of supplies that will be in demand during kitten season.
Plan to Communicate the Good News
- Make sure everyone in your organization is on the lookout for good news.
- Stories don't have to be big to get attention. A
particularly heart-warming adoption (perhaps to a senior citizen or
shut-in), a senior dog who once needed therapy himself getting
certified in your therapy dog program, or gift of birthday money from a
child, can help build your image as a place where good things happen.
- The best way to drown out bad news is with good news.
If you're engaged in a controversy, don't spend time responding to
negative letters to the editor or arguing with reporters about their
coverage. Instead, bombard the media with stories about all the good
work you're doing. Before you know it, the controversy will go away.