3 Ways to Improve Communication Within Your Nonprofit

Steven ShattuckJanuary 06, 2017

3 Ways to Improve Communication Within Your Nonprofit header image

In some nonprofits, internal departments work in completely separate worlds. Fundraising does one job and Programs/Operations does their own. Rarely do they work together (or understand what the other really does day to day). But why is that? Wouldn’t it be better for the organization as a whole if everyone worked together? After all, you are working towards the same goal. Here are some tips on how you can start building these internal relationships in 2017.

1. Educate, Educate, Educate

As a fundraiser have you ever felt misunderstood by other departments? They don’t understand why you do things the way you do. They think that you are asking people too many times to give. And that your fundraising tactics feel a bit too marketing-y. Well, you’re not alone. And it’s not because you are doing anything wrong – rather, it’s because not everyone understands the principles of direct marketing in the fundraising world.

A quick way to remedy this is to create a “Fundraising 101” document to share with the rest of your organization. You can do a quick presentation for different teams explaining what you do. Here are a couple of things to include:

  • Define what list segmentation means as it’s probably a foreign concept to them. Explain how even though it may seem like you are sending out a lot of appeals, you aren’t sending everyone everything. With help from your database, you are able to segment your donors into groups and only send them offers that resonate with them.
  • Explain that people come to your website to do one of two things: learn about your organization AND donate. This is why is crucial to have a donation button on every page. If people get to your website and can’t easily find the donate button, it’s more than likely that they won’t give.
  • Give them some email tests you’ve run and ask them to guess the winner. Pick tests that had unexpected results. This will help the rest of your team understand the importance of knowing your audience and creating messages specific for each audience.
  • Automation can not only save you time, it can actually allow for a more personalized experience for your donors. Your organization can build relationships with your donors – with personalized messages – while not having to actually reach out to every person individually.

By educating your staff, your whole organization benefits. If this is the case in your nonprofit, try this and see if you can start breaking down some of those silos.

2. Get out in the field

Have your development team take a trip to see the work your nonprofit is doing in the field. This will help you be a better fundraiser. You will write more compelling appeals because you have seen the result of your mission in action – you met your beneficiaries, heard their stories, and can now share their inspiring stories with your donors and prospective donors.

Talk to your staff members. Ask them what they do on a daily basis.  Go to where the work is happening, observe, and ask a lot of questions. You will return more passionate about your mission and therefore will be able to inspire your donors better.

You may also get new ideas for fundraising offers. There may be something the programs team is doing that they don’t realize would make a great fundraising offer.

Tip: Test these new offers on groups of donors who have given to something similar in the past. You can use your database to group donors by interest or what campaigns they’ve previously supported.

3. Don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen

Sometimes the review process on fundraising appeals can be a little hectic. Everyone has an opinion…and not all of them are good (see point #1). So how do you fix this? You need to make sure that the right people are reviewing your fundraising appeals. But how do you keep it contained so that you aren’t having to sift through and respond to dozens of comments?

Get the right people at the table from the beginning. Try to keep it at one or two people per key department (programs, finance, etc.). When you invite key players to brainstorming sessions, it goes a long way. They begin to see your heart for the appeal and feel as if they played a role in the creative process (which they did). This allows you to speed up the review process and helps prevent any major concerns along the way.

Tip: Consider soliciting feedback from a few trusted and valued donors before sending out a mass-appeal. After all, who better to give you feedback on whether an appeal will work than the donors themselves?! This can save you time and money by preventing a “dud” from hitting the masses.

At these meetings you need to establish ground rules. Here are a few examples:

  • Decide how you can or can’t represent the work you are doing in your fundraising appeals.
  • Let the program teams know which statistics, stories, and methods really resonate with your donors and inspire them to give so your staff can start keeping track of them. Plus, determine how you are going to represent program statistics.
  • Decide how often to reach out to and with what messaging you should send to volunteers and advocates. (If you have different treatment for these groups than your regular donor communications, make sure these groups are clearly segmented in your database.)
  • Finalize who exactly has to give their approval on fundraising appeals before they are sent to your donors.

There you go! Three ways that can really help you improve communication within your nonprofit. Try these out and make 2017 the year of open communication.

Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.

Filed Under:   Communication