Tips to promote your organization’s 2015 priorities
As the calendar turns to the second month of 2015, we are still at the dawn of a new year. Just as it’s not too late for people to set new goals or resolutions for the next 11 months, now is still a fitting time for nonprofit organizations to share their top 2015 priorities, goals and objectives with major constituencies – donors, volunteers, affiliated or partnering organizations, civic stakeholders and clients served, among them.
As shared in “What is Your State of the Union?,” the earliest months of the year provide a timely basis for organizations to digest, detail and display key goals. Just as the President does in the eponymous annual address and governors do in “State of the State” speeches, nonprofit organizations, too, may capitalize on the clean slate to get a fresh start on communicating the year’s intentions to key audiences.
Share Now, Benefit Later
The risk-return trade-off of presenting organizational goals can be well worth it, even if doing so breaks protocol by stretching agencies beyond their usual comfort zones. Being proactive about these key priorities early in the year reinforces messaging to both internal and external audiences; as a result, those same individuals who feel informed, acknowledged and included are more apt to carry the torch in support of the organization’s plans.
This may particularly be true when supporters face a flurry of choices from compelling or competing causes. The competition intensifies in a nonprofit marketplace with no shortage of options for how audiences elect to engage, if at all.
“People are inundated with information,” says Vanessa Wakeman, founder and CEO of The Wakeman Agency, a PR and event planning firm serving nonprofit organizations. “This information overload is why it’s important to try new ways to cut through the clutter and connect with audiences.”
Doing so can reap significant rewards. Here’s how:
Engagement. Communicating forthrightly with the organization’s roster of contacts and key constituents can provide a powerful reminder of why they latched onto the mission in the first place. Unexpected outreach, or a new way of communicating continued information, can affirm to supporters that their energies are well-directed.
Re-connection. Most organizations’ contact lists likely feature some lapsed donors or inactive volunteers. Setting the tone for the new year with a declaration of 2015 priorities and promises just may be what it takes to re-engage these individuals, moving the needle from dormant to dedicated once again.
Funding funnel. According to a 2012 survey of American nonprofit donors conducted by fundraising-software company Blackbaud, two main factors have a detrimental effect on giving: 1) a lack of confidence about how funds are being spent and 2) limited access to information that connects the dots between money donated and outcomes achieved. By sharing specific information that ties donors’ account balances to actual organizational actions and achievements, nonprofits can reduce the risk of “leaving money on the table.”
Setting the Stage
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to communicating organizational goals. Missions are different. Audiences vary. Resources and budgets diverge from one organization to another.
Nonetheless, Wakeman offers some timeless and general best practices that can be modeled by organizations of all types – in short, first choose wisely and then continue the conversation.
“Don’t try to be everywhere,” she says. “Instead think about the platforms that your stakeholders use, and target your messaging there. Be sure to leverage platforms and tools that allow two-way dialogue. You not only want to share your message, but you also want to allow people to respond.”
The Wakeman Agency has helped clients create “State of the Union”-inspired meetings to advance stakeholder outreach and communication. The solutions and options are often as differentiated as the missions and goals of the served organizations. Still, “the most effective ones are those that allowed constituents to share their viewpoints and be active participants in helping the organization reach their goals,” explains Wakeman.
Here are three straightforward tactics for sharing broad organizational goals.
From the top-down, side-to-side and bottom-up. Too often, internal messaging flows one way – from the top down. Leadership certainly must champion the goals and ensure they filter down and across the organizational chart. However, the sustainability of the goals depends highly on those charged to carry them out each day. Frontline professionals and middle managers play a pivotal role in motivating employees and maintaining momentum. That’s why affirming the year’s goals should become part of the everyday DNA of how organizations operate – evident in business communications, from memos and meeting agendas to routine happenings, like team celebrations and opening remarks during employee potlucks.
Addresses, speeches and speaking engagements. Ensure that organizational “State of the Union” goals are pillars within most, if not all, public addresses and speeches delivered by leadership and other representatives. Set the tone by making these goals the organization’s “calling card” for the year, never missing a beat – or an opportunity – no matter the venue, audience or available time. Messages may be tailored accordingly, but goals should be universally applicable and relevant.
Go virtual. Many organizations have now embraced video as a routine instrument in their communications toolbox. Conducting a virtual “State of the Union” is one cost-effective approach with the possibility of exponential audience outreach, tapping into unknown or under-sought groups. “The event can be streamed using various user-friendly tools that allow a global audience to participate or view the recorded version later,” Wakeman says. Employing certain social media practices and other tools can even keep the conversation going well after the event or viewing, too.
“The follow-up dialogue is where many organizations fall short,” Wakeman offers. “Having a successful ‘State of the Union’ is just the beginning. An organization has to commit to maintaining contact with its audience to keep them apprised of progress and how they can help.”
If your organization is interested in how to create its own “State of the Union” or develop solutions for communicating it, contact The Wakeman Agency at 212-500-5953 x115.