As the global Covid-19 pandemic continues, nonprofits are facing increasing demand for services at a time when internal resources are stretched thin. Faced with these dual strains on their systems, many have let communication with their stakeholders lapse.
For smaller organizations it can be difficult even in normal times to step back from vital work long enough to communicate about it. During a crisis it’s even harder—but it’s also more necessary.
With the end of the year looming, now is the time to revisit your communication strategy. A coordinated effort can boost your profile and engage stakeholders just as they are making their giving choices.
Explain the need
Be direct about how Covid-19 is affecting those you serve. Everyone has been affected in different ways; don’t assume your stakeholders know what the people you work with are going through.
Use both quantitative information (e.g., food pantry demand, number of clients who have lost jobs) and qualitative information (stories) to give a well-rounded picture. For the latter, one or two compelling stories about the new challenges individuals are facing can help paint a picture of the urgency of the need.
Highlight your unique ability to help
Donors and other supporters are increasingly interested in understanding exactly how their funds are being used. Let them know what value you provide that others can’t. You may have unique access to the population you serve, provide services that are unavailable elsewhere, or offer a distinctive combination of efficiency and effectiveness.
In addition to highlighting your approach, be specific about how you’re using resources to benefit your community. How have you stepped up to meet rising demand? How has your work affected your community and the individuals you serve? Again, it’s important to use both numbers and stories to show your positive impact.
It’s harder to communicate during a crisis, but it’s also more necessary.
Especially in times that are difficult for everyone, it’s essential to reinforce a sense of community among your supporters. Acknowledge that they may also be struggling and emphasize that we’re all in this together. Above all, don’t forget to thank them for their vital support.
As part of community building, it’s helpful to pull the curtain back a bit and show what you’re doing to protect your own staff. That said, avoid discussing internal difficulties. You may be short staffed, stressed, and overstretched, but it’s important to focus on what you’re getting done, not on how difficult it is. (Although noting how much more you could do with additional resources is never a bad idea.)
Communicate with everyone
Even organizations that communicate often and well with supporters can lose track of the need for internal communication. It’s essential to keep two-way channels open with staff, board members, partners, and vendors as well as with donors and funders.
Good communication can ease stresses in workflow, improve supply chain management, and boost your ability to meet changing needs among internal and external stakeholders. It’s also important for helping staff stay motivated and committed to the organization’s work. Finally, it can nurture the well-being of staff members who may be off-site and separated from their usual sources of support.
If you haven’t updated your website and social media platforms, it’s crucial to do so now. Outdated information or instructions—for example, asking for in-person food or clothing donations when you no longer accept them—make your organization look disorganized and out of touch. Meanwhile, you’re missing out on opportunities to shine a spotlight on the impact you’re making during the pandemic.
Make sure your key messages appear across platforms, both for consistency and to extend the reach of your communication. While updating everything at once may feel burdensome, it’s actually easier to cross-post while you have what you want to say fresh in your mind than to keep recreating your messaging. As with most aspects of communication, making the time investment up front will pay off later.
Bonus tip: Remind donors of new giving benefits under the CARES Act
Under the CARES Covid-19 relief act, taxpayers who take the standard deduction can claim a charitable deduction of up to $300 for cash donations in 2020. Also, individuals will be able to deduct cash gifts to the extent of their entire adjusted gross income rather than 60%.