The Center for Non-Profits has recently released the results of its annual 2020 survey of the New Jersey nonprofit community.  While the results were incredibly insightful at the time, things have changed drastically since then.  As we all know now, there has been an extraordinary impact on the community since the coronavirus burst on the scene.  As the virus first began to spread and gain increasing attention, the early conversation for nonprofits focused on “to reschedule or not reschedule” major events and fundraisers as well as on “how to keep clients and employees safe.”  As the situation expands and the conversation goes in a new direction the results of the survey will be further exacerbated.

Not surprisingly, the most critical issue for all respondents is the increasing demand for services, which, as in past years, continues to outpace funding.  This is not a new trend and is anticipated to remain as a key concern going forward.

The onset of the virus and the disruptions in its wake will only make things much worse.

Recognizing that demand for services is going to keep rising, the discussion must shift to what to do and how to address the challenges.

  • Nonprofit leaders will look for new ways to collaborate, align or even consider merging with strategic partners in order to serve their constituents effectively and economically.  Embracing the concept of shared services and shared responsibilities will be moved to the forefront as innovative approaches become the best options.
  • Seeking more volunteers and encouraging new and existing supporters will also be key.
  • Mobilizing the for-profit community will be one tactic that can bring greater stability to nonprofits. 

But underlying all of these efforts is the importance of frequent, honest communication supporting every organization’s marketing and branding strategy.

In order to achieve its mission, each nonprofit will continue to work to improve its own marketing and branding messages, distinguishing its goals and outcomes. But in addition, as more organizations begin to come together, recognizing common objectives and cooperating in order to work in a leaner but more efficient process, co-branding and co-messaging will help to educate the community.

Utilizing a variety of technology tools and human outreach, nonprofits can tell their story, announce new paths as they evolve, and build the strong emotional connections that can help them move forward.

What can you do to ensure the best communication?

  • Review your website.  Make sure that is easy to navigate, reinforces the mission, utilizes powerful images, and captures the imagination of your visitors and engages with them. Have your story and history prominently displayed as well as the list of staff and board members.  Programs and services should be clearly explained.  An events calendar can help guests register seamlessly to help drive attendance and interest.

When you are working in tandem with others, the website should be the front line for announcing your exciting plans.  Your audiences want to know how creative you are and what dynamic enterprises you are undertaking.

Above all else, contact information and a ‘donate now’ link should appear on every page.

  • Use social media to interact with friends. Share photos, stories, quotes and information about all of the amazing events and initiatives that the organization is involved with. Build your list of friends so that the message spreads to those who are likely to be ambassadors for you. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pintrest and every possible source that makes sense for your audience.
  • Leverage email messaging.  When you have a great result, important metrics, or an upcoming announcement, email your clients. Be thoughtful not to overwhelm your target market and use the subject line to catch the attention of your followers. Look through the lens as a receiver and think about what emails you open – and then use that same philosophy on emails that you send.
  • Don’t forget the value of the postal mail. Interesting postcards and letters can dominate your followers’ inbox. As snail mail declines in popularity, you can fill that void as one component of your branding strategy. Getting your message out is a little easier when you have fewer competing for space!
  • Stay in contact with the local media. Nonprofits have an extraordinary economic influence locally and statewide. As such, they are an integral part of the news stories. Journalists and bloggers are interested in reporting what’s happening.So take your place as a critical resource by staying in touch, sharing insights and assisting the media with important breakthrough details. Invite the media to attend your events so they can see what you are doing first-hand. It will be easier to get their attention and support when they are intimately aware of your successes.

Once you have these tools in place, have your volunteers, board members, staff and friends take on the role of champion for you. People do business with people they like and trust. This is a concept that will form the basis of much of your personal and individual networking.Share your “elevator pitch” with everyone who speaks on your behalf to ensure a consistent message but enable everyone the opportunity to share their passion in their own way.

No matter how challenged you are in capacity building, branding, fundraising and volunteerism, all of these obstacles feed into the overall concern for rising demands and decreasing funding. Working together and finding new and dynamic ways to combine efforts will be one strong step towards thriving despite the threatening landscape.  

 Visit the Center for Non-Profits for more information.