Non-profit leaders are stressed out. How can anyone survive, let alone thrive as funding dries up, endowments shrink and long-time donors disappear? Even in a good year, every nonprofit thinks they are a well-kept secret. How can we get some attention for the great work we do? We have a great story but how can we get people to listen?

Too often, the answer is to focus on tactics. Getting a story on TV may get you some nice results, but if it is not part of strategic communications program the results will likely be short-term. Long-term success depends on moving strategically. A tactical campaign is like putting the cart before the horse. You might make some progress but you won't get very far.

So what does a strategic communications plan look like? It should include your goals, measurable objectives, strategies to meet those objectives and tactics to support your strategies. A good place to start is by asking, "What is the problem and how can we solve it?"

Situation analysis

The first step is to see where you are now. What is the problem we need to solve? What are our challenges and opportunities? Is the problem that we've been around for years but nobody knows us? Or we have a serious competitor? Or we need to reach Hispanics but we don't speak Spanish?

Define your goals

Depending on the situation analysis, your overarching goal might be to raise brand awareness or to reach a wider audience. Maybe it's establishing a multicultural outreach program. The goal is really the solution to your problem.

Identify clear objectives

Establishing measurable objectives at the outset will help you determine if the campaign was successful. A measurable objective must be specific. We will increase donations by 15% by year-end. We will add 200 new members within the next year. We will increase Web hits or calls to our hotline by 25% over the next six months.

Know your audience

Who do you want to reach? Every organization has multiple stakeholders. Some are internal, like employees and volunteers. Others are external, like donors, foundations or clients. Understanding your audience is essential before you can decide which strategies and tactics you will use to reach them.

Craft your messages

What are the three most important things you want to communicate? If you want them to resonate, they should be culturally relevant, clear and consistent.

Design your strategies

Your strategies should help you meet your objectives. For example, a media relations program is a strategy that could help you increase donations. A social media program could increase traffic to your Web site. A community relations program could help you target potential new members.

Create your tactics

Each strategy needs supporting tactics. A media relations program might need a media kit and a news release. A social media strategy might require an online newsroom and Twitter. Community relations might include a booth at a cultural festival or health fair.

Starting strategically makes determining the success of the campaign easy. Just see how you did at meeting your objectives. If you did well, you should also see that you achieved your overall goal.

If you want to be a highly regarded success instead of a well-kept secret, resist the temptation to focus on tactics. Take the time to think strategically and develop a plan that gains you the attention you deserve.

Bookmark and Share