Five Things I Learned Doing Nonprofit Communications

Photo from IREJN’s Green Forum on Reality, Hope and Action in an Age of Climate Change

1. Finding Your Own Voice Within Your Organization: Brand-Awareness & Self-Awareness

This past summer as I began filling more of an organizer role, one thing my supervisor helped me grasp early on was a deeper understanding of myself and my own journey. I did exercises that helped me think about my path in a more holistic way so that when I met with community members I had a better understanding of myself and the value I bring to the world. 

Having a deep understanding of your organization’s values, mission, and voice is important but it isn’t enough. To build more authentic relationships with your constituencies and supporters, you need to have a deep understanding of yourself as well. For me, this is an ongoing process that takes a lot of practice going beyond your organizational pitch and framing it in a way that’s true to your voice and values.

Remember, the organization hired YOU for a reason; you’re a good fit for the role! You should be proud of the person you are within the context of your work and let that shine through.

2. In-Person Relationship Building to Strengthen and Grow an Online Audience

Photo from our November 2019 Roundtable Gathering

Despite doing digital media communications, I have learned the importance of building relationships in person. This is especially true in doing the work of diversifying or expanding your network. Often a social media post or email blast is not enough for a lot of people to get on board with your mission. One-on-one meetings and networking at events are integral to building a stronger online supporter base. This way when you do connect with your supporters online, you know them and therefore can connect with them more authentically and personally.

Make sure when you meet folks in person who are interested in your organization you encourage them to stay connected with you on social media and through email blasts.

3. Listening To and Understanding Your Audience

Photo from our November 2019 Roundtable Gathering

2020 Vision: Next year, a goal of the Roundtable is to experiment more with video. I’m interested to see how we can use this medium to connect more genuinely with our supporters online.

Organizations spend a good amount of time pushing out their message in various ways: Whether it be a published Op-Ed, a post on social media, or in person at events. As I continue to build my supporter base, I’ve learned the importance of creating spaces to hear their voices as well. Listening to their interests and concerns leads to a deeper understanding of their passions, motivations, and in turn can strengthen their connection to your organization.

Here are some ways that the Roundtable does this:

  • Partner Highlights in our newsletter to lift up the efforts of our affiliate organizations
  • Creating space at events for supporters to speak about their organizational focus areas
  • Feedback surveys and posting questions for people to respond to on social media

4. Strategic Collaborative Communications

#CTVoicesforClimate post – Follow us @ctclimatejobs on Instagram!

This is a technique my supervisor uses a lot. To strengthen his messaging, he does collaborative Op-Eds with members of the Roundtable Board or key leaders from our affiliate groups. I have known and used this technique since my time in college. It’s no surprise that two voices can be stronger than one. It typically expands the volume of listeners you can reach and it is particularly great if your collaborator’s network aligns with the message you want to deliver. This isn’t a strategy that should be overused though. Unless your organization’s brand is specifically about highlighting other people’s voices, it can water down your own messaging and mission.

Here are some collaborative social media and blog posts that have worked really well for me:

  • Art show in college: “Meet the Artists” posts
  • CTVoicesforClimate: highlighting community members’ perspectives on the intersection between their work and the environment
  • Collaborative Blog Posts

5. Analytics SUCK – But Do Them Anyway

Mailchimp open rates vs. click rates

I’m guessing that I’m not the only person in the nonprofit world that would prefer to not spend hours and hours hyper-focusing on numbers. For me, carrying out the Roundtable’s mission and developing content is what’s most fulfilling. However, doing quarterly or bi-annual reviews of your online followers and engagement stats is a vital way of measuring your effectiveness.

Things I’ve learned doing quarterly analytics reviews:

  • People engage more with action oriented outreach and events
  • The effectiveness of collaborative communications
  • That concise facebook posts with captivating graphics turn out better engagement
Aisha K. Staggers
Author: Aisha K. Staggers

Provider of "proactive and strategic communications" with a solid background in print and digital journalism. Communications Director of Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs.