A New Year's Resolution: Don't Cut Off Your Nose
Last year was a tough year, and 2009 might be even tougher. Nonprofits are hunkering down, trying to weather the economic storm that is dramatically reducing their revenues yet increasing demand for their services. Often one of the first functions to go is communications.
Despite the awful economic conditions, this is no time to [cut] back on getting your messages out to the public. In fact, it's more important now than ever before to let people know how and why you exist.
Here are some cost-effective ways to get your name and mission out to people during these tough times. Make them your 2009 New Year’ s resolutions:
1. Create brand ambassadors.
Turn everyone affiliated with your organization — employees, board members, volunteers and clients — into effective brand ambassadors.
Prepare them well. At the very least, develop and distribute to them the messages you want them to deliver about your organization to people they come in contact with during the course of an ordinary day, including friends, family members, co-workers at other jobs they may have, people they meet while traveling, etc.
Those messages should clearly and concisely tell people who you are, what you do, how you do it and why they should care enough to support you.
2. Make a special effort to speak to groups in your community.
As a leader of your organization, make appointments to speak in front of civic organizations, including your local Chamber of Commerce, Lions and Kiwanis clubs, church congregations, school PTAs, and anywhere else you can find an interested audience.
When speaking about what your organization does, broaden your message so that it goes beyond the services you provide to your direct client base. In a compelling, yet sensitive manner, explain how what you do effects and reflects on the entire community.
3. If you haven't already, make friends with your local media.
The media are always looking for "experts" to quote in their stories. Make your organization one of those reliable sources of expert information that the media can count on — especially when they are on tight deadlines. You'll make friends forever.
And don't overlook the smaller media outlets. Even the biggest cities have dozens of neighborhood publications and local cable outlets that are hungry for good human-interest stories.
4. Update your Web site.
Revisit your Web site to ensure it reflects the environment in which you are currently working, including the increased demand for your services, how that demand is being — or not being — met, how people can help, and the specific outcomes they can expect from their donations. Be as transparent and accountable as possible.
Also, it's wise to include testimonials on your Web site, as well as on your printed materials, including brochures, fliers and annual reports. Personal testimonials carry powerful messages. It's always more impressive when someone other than an organization representative speaks positively about you.
5. Create points of entry.
Invite prospective donors, community leaders, media representatives and others to your organization so they can see firsthand what it is you do, as well as get answers to any questions they might have about your organization.
Despite the economic chill, don't bite off your nose. Instead, get your face out there!
Larry Checco is president of Checco Communications and author of "Branding for Success: A Roadmap for Raising the Visibility and Value of Your Nonprofit Organization.” This article originally appeared in the Winter 2009 edition of his e-letter, Branding Bytes.