15 Must-Haves In a Successful Nonprofit Communication Strategy

Written by Mate Tagaj

10 min read

Published on May 06, 2024

Updated on Jun 17, 2024

Developing a watertight nonprofit communication strategy is one of the most important things for any successful organisation. Your core strategy is the thing that will guide your organisation through its efforts to connect with key stakeholders, amplify your impact and achieve your core mission.
15 Must-Haves In a Successful Nonprofit Communication Strategy
The same is true for a project communication strategy if your organisation runs more complex projects, but it will probably have a different scale and direction.
However, creating a communication strategy can be a daunting task. Where to start? What to include? Who are you trying to reach? 
Not to worry, changemakers! Here are 15 key elements of a nonprofit communication strategy.

1. Who is your target audience?

Effective communication for nonprofits begins with stakeholder mapping and audience analysis. Who exactly are you trying to reach? Policymakers? Member organisations? Experts? The general public? The target audience for nonprofits varies a lot, depending on the work you do.
Define both your internal and external audiences and use the ‘Importance/influence Matrix’ to prioritise your target groups. 
Influence-Importance Matrix of Stakeholder Analysis
Once you defined your maximum three primary audiences, create fictional profiles or user personas representative of each target group. Furthermore, detail the specific demographics, interests, goals and online behaviour (channels used & digital needs) of your ideal target audience segments.
It would also be helpful to perform a competitor analysis, looking at how other nonprofits communicate their mission. This can also be useful to help you figure out what will set you apart from similar nonprofits.

2. Write your purpose statement or UVP

Your communication strategy’s literal heartbeat is the purpose statement or UVP (Unique Value Proposition). This is the inspirational, memorable storytelling that summarises what your organisation or project is, does and hopes to achieve. 
It’s the one-sentence foundation on which your team, audience, and community will remember you. It also often relies on the unique value of your organisation or project. You might have heard about it as an elevator pitch, mission statement, unique value proposition or UVP in short.
Make it as short as possible but catchy and memorable.

3. Define your communication objectives

A communication strategy should also translate your organisational objectives into concrete objectives, goals, and actions. This will ultimately help improve your digital communication. Create a table of your core organisational objectives and think about how your communication efforts can contribute to them.
Before defining your objectives, we recommend that you examine your top competitors (or partner organisations that have purposes and goals similar to yours). Additionally, you should also run a SWOT analysis.
By examining your top 3 competitors’ communication strategies in depth, you can identify best practices. You can then reuse this information to determine what makes users choose them over you and decide how to react.
Finally, a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) – applied specifically to your communication activities – can help you find areas for improvement and discover new areas to prioritise, providing insights into the direction of your communication strategy.

4. Design your communication funnel

A communications funnel is a helpful tool to visualise the journey of your target audience and their different engagement levels. It’s a step-by-step approach to building relationships, moving people from complete strangers to loyal supporters.
There are three main stages in the funnel: Top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel.
At the top, the goal is to attract a large audience through tactics like social media, content marketing or SEO. Once you have their attention, the middle stage focuses on capturing their contact information. Finally, the bottom stage targets your most valuable audience and aims to get them to take a specific action. For instance, registering for your event, actively participating in your campaign or advocating for your organisation.
The communication funnel is not always linear. People may jump stages or even drop out altogether. To address this, you can create “expressways” to allow people to convert faster and “return paths” to reengage those who have lost interest. By understanding the communication funnel and implementing these strategies, you can build a strong base of supporters.
Nonprofit Communication Funnel Converting a Target Persona to a Loyal Nonprofit Supporter

Communication Channels

When you design your funnel, you should also decide on the communication channels and communication tools that you will use.
There are a lot of communication channels for nonprofits, and you don’t have to use them all to be successful.
In your audience analysis, you have looked at where your target audience gets their information from. Are they active on certain social media channels? Do they respond well to emails and newsletters? Or do they spend a lot of time reading website articles? 
To maximise your time and resources, you should invest in channels that you know your audience is already active on. These will give you the most effective reach and engagement, so don’t worry about the other channels (for now, anyway).

Communication Tools

Last but not least, don’t forget to list out all the communication tools that will help you be more effective in reaching your target audience. Think about your social media automation tools (e.g. Buffer, Hootsuite etc.), your email marketing platform (e.g. MailChimp, Brevo etc.), your SEO tools(s) (e.g. Mangools, Ahrefs, Yoast SEO, AIOSEO etc.) and more.
There are a lot of generous nonprofit discounts available. Explore all options and compare before you stick with your go-to communication tools. 
Nonprofit Communication Tools Logos

5. Identify your key messaging

What makes your organisation or project(s) different? What social problems are you best able to impact? 
Tell your story in clear language that will make your audience understand what you are setting out to do.
Avoid jargon that the general public won’t understand and focus on the difference that your nonprofit will make. Everyone loves a good story, so tell people all about the transformation that your work brings to life.
Every organisation has its own unique tones of voice and key messages that they consistently use across channels and campaigns. Make sure to include them in your communication strategy to align your team. This will keep them up-to-date with your latest key messaging and brand tone of voice.

6. Storytelling is just as important as facts and figures

Though evidence and statistics are, of course, important, stories are what captivate people’s hearts. 
Tell the stories of the people your nonprofit serves, describe their difficulties, explain how lives are changed, and tug on the heartstrings of anyone who reads your content. 
Use photos or a video to illustrate your point through visual storytelling. Alternatively, you can leverage the power of storytelling with data, sprucing up any stats with infographics.
The most effective key messages and storyteller tactics are grounded in emotional appeal. You are far more likely to persuade someone to join your cause if they feel connected to your work. Integrate this into your communication strategy and make sure that your team never forgets the art of storytelling online.

7. Ensure consistency in brand design and brand positioning 

Brand consistency is key to brand recognition. It’s not just about the words you say. You must build your nonprofit branding or brand identity. You can do that by compiling your logo, colour palette, and fonts in a branding guidebook that you can use everywhere.
Not only will it give your brand identity a professional look, but it also makes people more likely to remember you and recognise your work once they get used to your visual branding. 
The same goes for your words as well. Stick to a consistent brand tone of voice, use the same terminology, and give your audience a reason to remember you.

8. Content Plan

Creating great content for your nonprofit that resonates with your core audiences is all about becoming a publisher who creates valuable content that drives results. However, before creating any content, you should do your strategic homework and create a solid content plan.
Your objective here should be to send the right message, to the right people, at the right time and through the right channel. By this point, you should have already defined your primary target audiences, personas and key messaging. Now it’s time to decide on the right content format (articles, videos, podcasts, ads, emails, webinars etc.) and define your tactics to optimise, distribute and promote your content.
Once you know which messages to send to which target groups, which content types work the best for them to deliver those messages, when it’s the best time to reach them and through which channel, you should put that in black and white to drive your content plan and editorial calendar in the months to come. 

9. SEO Plan

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) includes everything you do to drive organic traffic to your digital assets through search engines. It’s extremely powerful, but most nonprofits lack the internal skills to address it properly. 

Empower Your Team with our SEO Training for Nonprofits

If you don’t have the necessary skills in-house, we recommend starting your SEO plan within your communication strategy by expressing the need for training. Look for appropriate courses and training online to empower your team with the knowledge they need to leverage the power of SEO. If you are interested in our 2-day SEO training, please feel free to book a free strategic call with us here.

If your team is already well-equipped with solid SEO skills, don’t forget to define your SEO plan, including all the internal know-how about how you are approaching keyword research, on-page, off-page, and technical SEO optimisation to increase your traffic from search engines like Google or YouTube.

10. Email Marketing Plan

Email is still one of the most underrated and underutilised communication channels. Nevertheless, sending relevant, timely emails at the right stage of your users’ journey can give a significant boost to any communication campaign.
Thus, it’s crucial to enlist your tactics in an email marketing plan. This should include everything about how you make your email lists grow, how you segment your email subscribers and databases and how you plan your regular or automated email campaigns. At last, you can also collect your best practices for writing emails that are actually opened, clicked, and read.
If you manage to streamline your team’s efforts in expanding your email lists and creating and optimising every email blast and newsletter, we guarantee that email will become one of the cornerstones of your communication efforts.

11. Digital Advertising Plan

If you are doing comms at a nonprofit, you have probably already engaged in some kind of digital advertising. Whether it is boosting a post on Facebook every once in a while or doing high-scale omnichannel advertising campaigns, you must make sure that your ads deliver real results and not just impressions. 
To do that, you should enlist your go-to advertising platforms, plan your annual and project-based campaigns with a dedicated strategy, and put your tactics on paper to create high-converting ads.
If you feel that your nonprofit is too small to spend on paid advertising, you are wrong. You still have some options out there. The Google Ad Grant offers $10,000 USD per month of free search advertising, while you can also benefit from an additional grant of up to $3,000 USD per month from Microsoft’s Ad Grant called “ads for social impact”.
Goolge Ad Grants and Microsoft Ads for Social Impact Webpages Opened on a Desktop and a Laptop
Launching any ad campaign can be daunting, not to mention navigating the complex compliance requirements of the Google or Microsoft Ad Grants. Consequently, we recommend including a section in your communication strategy on how you approach your advertising campaigns and whether you are managing them in-house, organising any training for your team to equip them with the necessary knowledge, or if (and how) you are outsourcing the ongoing management of your Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. 

12. Social Media Plan

Your nonprofit’s social media plan should be seamlessly integrated into your overall communication strategy.  This includes a comprehensive analysis of existing and planned channels, their target audiences, content pillars, engagement tactics, and social listening efforts.
Define specific, platform-based goals for each active social media account.  Identify your unique audience segments for each channel and tailor your content on each channel accordingly.
Don’t forget to use your previous competitor analysis to identify best practices employed by similar organisations. Adapt these successful tactics to inform your own social media plan.
Lastly,  establish clear roles and responsibilities for social media management within your team.  Define approval workflows to ensure a smooth internal process, consistency and brand alignment.
Planable.io Approval Workflow for social media posts

13. Outline Your Annual Communication Budget Allocation

An unbalanced budget can hinder progress towards your team’s communication goals, potentially leading to overspending and decreased efficiency. Therefore, we recommend that you include your annual communication budget allocation in your nonprofit communication strategy. 
If your organisation doesn’t have a dedicated annual communication budget, compile a detailed spreadsheet outlining all communication-related expenses for different months and quarters of the year. By having access to this information, you can turn to your management and ask them to set aside the budget you need to succeed next year.
Here are a couple of typical budget categories you may want to include:
  1. Website-related costs
  2. Graphic design costs
  3. Video production costs
  4. Ad Spend
  5. Subscriptions
  6. Outsourcing costs
  7. Training 

14. Don’t Forget to Measure and Track Your Impact

Creating and implementing a communication strategy is a lot of work, but how are you going to know if it’s actually working? The answer is through proper communication campaign tracking and measurement.
Every time you post on social media, release a new report or update a webpage, it’s important to track the impact of your work. Define your KPIs (KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator) for all your channels like your website, social media, email activity etc. Once you’ve defined your key metrics and KPIs, create a Looker Studio dashboard for each stage of your funnel and leverage the power of reporting automation for your success metrics.
Looker Studio Report Scheduling Every Month Screen Recording
Monitoring and tracking key performance indicators is essential for measuring success. Without it, you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t – you’ll just waste your money and shout into the void.

15. Stick to Your Plan, But Leave Room For Improvement

No communication strategy is ever going to be perfect, so don’t think that once you’ve put pen to paper, you need to follow your strategy precisely.
The way we communicate is always changing, as is the way that people respond to certain activities – that’s why it’s important to be quick to adapt.
Follow up with your communication strategy through a smart action plan, but keep up with communication trends to stay current and be willing to adapt. Assess your goals on a regular basis, evaluate your progress, and stay willing to tweak your strategy.
The most effective communication strategies are constantly evolving because they’re not a one-time project but a living document that helps your nonprofit grow success over time.

Final Thoughts

At Boostern, we understand that writing a communication strategy is hard. After all, you know a lot about your organisation and the mission you’re working towards, but it’s not always simple to put it all down in writing.
But, following all of these tips from our communication strategists, you should be able to create a solid base for your nonprofit’s communication strategy or even for a project communication plan. Use them well, and you’ll be on your way to creating the awareness, visibility and engagement that you need to make a difference. 

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