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Telling Your Nonprofit's Story

Outreach–it’s something all nonprofits need to do, and in today’s social-media saturated world, it requires a robust skillset–and a lot of time. Or, so it appears. While reaching volunteers, stakeholders, donors, and the community you serve is more complex than ever, it doesn’t need to be difficult. To more effective at outreach, stretching your nonprofit or social enterprise’s resources to do more, you need a strategy.


First off, take a multipronged, long-term view. Today’s stakeholders are increasingly mobile-first, consuming your message on their phones while going about their daily lives. This means they consume your message in small pieces, throughout the year. Gone are the days of the Annual Appeal letter or volunteer Open House as your primary means to win supporters. Instead, you need to focus on creating engaging content throughout the year, so that potential supporters or beneficiaries of your mission see you as the go-to organization whenever they think of your cause. Whether you are building sustainable energy solutions in the developing world, or providing arts education in local schools, now, more than ever, you need a consistent outreach plan 365 days a year. Here are some tips on making that doable with the resources you have:

Segment your audience:

Donors engage with your organization differently than volunteers, whose needs are different from those of the community. You segment these different groups in your management software, so do the same in your outreach: know the relationship of each person in your database to your organization, and craft different messages for each constituency. To do otherwise risks confusing stakeholders or turning them off.

Real is better than perfect:

When it comes to images, community stories, and outreach appeals. our drive for perfection can sometimes stop us from being as productive as we might. Our communities know that we’re nonprofits, and they don’t expect the photos from our latest 5k to be shot by fashion photographers. Frequent, sincere, fresh communications connect better than staged imagery or slick brochures.

Done is better than perfect:

You don’t want to send out an invitation to your Annual Appeal Dinner with the wrong date, so celebrating imperfection doesn’t mean skipping quality checks. What it does mean is that you don’t need to overthink having just the right colors for your flier, or revise an email more than twice. Nervousness about our message can turn into being overly picky about minor details–so have confidence and send your message out.

Go multi-channel:

Today’s stakeholders get their information from multiple channels, so experiment with ways of reaching your existing audience in fresh ways, and finding new ones. Your tried-and-true email outreach will still be the cornerstone of your messaging; it still returns 40x most organizations’ investment. Branching out, though, can help keep your mission top of mind. Create a Snapchat filter for your next event. Share Facebook videos of community stories. Create a YouTube channel with relevant educational content. If it seems like a lot for your resources, select specific campaigns to promote on more channels than usual, rather than trying to manage a dozen channels all the time.

Tap free resources:

Your outreach vendors have a wealth of resources for you, from copyright-cleared image libraries, free trainings, and templates for messaging. Check those emails from your email service provider, donor management software, and more: the free resources inside could be worth more than your monthly service fee, and pay dividends in freeing up staff time.

Want more tips? Join Christina and other nonprofit and startup communications professionals at a one-day bootcamp on effective writing, Saturday, September 24. Five scholarships are available to attend free for organizations with fewer than five staff. To apply, please email christina at