Improve Your Nonprofit’s Internal Communication and Collaboration
Successful nonprofits are driven by a powerful sense of purpose, which they communicate regularly both externally and internally. These communications are driven by the organization’s mission statement: a description of your nonprofit’s core purpose.
The mission statement is like a north star — it keeps everyone moving in the same direction, toward achieving great things.
Forty percent of nonprofit communications professionals say that internal communication is a high priority for them, within a larger context of budget constraints and high donor expectations.
Improving internal communication is just as much about senior executives sharing strategic planning with the wider organization, as it is about staff members communicating more to each other and overcoming departmental silos.
Why Internal Communication and Collaboration is Important
Internal communications can be framed around the following components:
- Engaging your employees in your cause, and communicating through storytelling
- Understanding exactly who your audience is and the best channels to connect with them
- Communicating news regularly through established channels, such as a company newsletter or staff meetings
- Taking advantage of the right technology to makes it easier to communicate and collaborate internally
Nonprofits that are looking to make a significant impact need a focused mission. To align volunteers, staff and other stakeholders with your nonprofit mission statement, it's important to improve internal communication and collaboration.
With a clearly communicated mission, you’ll improve brand awareness, employee productivity and morale. Better internal communication also ensures we learn from our mistakes, reduce organizational risk and innovate more quickly.
Communicating more with employees improves engagement, since they feel more connected to your mission. It works best if communication is two-way, so employees feel heard in return.
It reduces staff turnover, which subsequently lowers the costs associated with hiring new staff. This is important when you consider the turnover rate in the nonprofit sector is 19%, and organizations must compete against the higher-paying commercial sector for talent.
Brand Ambassadorship and Mission Ambassadorship
Improved internal communication and collaboration helps to create mission ambassadors — there are internal advocates of your brand who can advance your cause.
Mission ambassadors can humanize your nonprofit because they help others see the nonprofit vision. This, in turn, improves your ability to emotionally connect with donors (as well as turn one-time donors into long-term donors) and investors.
Improved communication and collaboration gives staff a sense of purpose. This is important for nonprofits in particular, as they usually need to find non-monetary methods of motivating staff.
Steps to Improve Internal Communication and Collaboration
Improving internal communication involves opening up the lines of communication from the top down and building communication networks across the organization.
Engage Employees With the Big Picture
One area where internal communications is important is uniting staff around shared objectives and communicating the larger context of decision-making. It’s likely that employees have joined your nonprofit for a particular reason, and they feel passionate about your cause.
Use storytelling to communicate the impact of new initiatives, fundraising projects or client achievements — the same stories that you share with donors have the power to inspire and motivate staff.
Offering recognition for contributions is a reliable method to actually engage employees and volunteers. It makes them aware of the positive impact they have helped create, which is especially important for those volunteers who have donated their time and hard work to your cause.
On the other hand, not everyone gets to work on the frontlines with the direct beneficiaries of your work. They’ll appreciate learning about the impact of your nonprofit and how their role has contributed to helping beneficiaries. The resulting employee satisfaction leads to more loyalty to the organization and renewed commitment to the mission.
Motivate Staff to Talk to Each Other
Internal communication also encompasses improving relationships between staff and their ability to listen and learn from one another. When people feel connected to their shared purpose, they are more likely to communicate with each other to achieve their goals.
It’s important to encourage better interpersonal communication and skills-sharing with mentoring and buddy arrangements, secondments, apprenticeships and internships.
Members of staff can reach a wider audience with their message through brown bag lunches and inter-departmental presentations.
Capture and Store Knowledge Permanently
As well as opening up channels of communication between staff, the institutional knowledge itself is one of your organization’s best assets.
Empower Employees by Creating Knowledge Sharing Culture
Empowering staff to do their jobs properly is another fundamental purpose of internal communication. Part of this process is giving them access to the right knowledge at the right time.
Your nonprofit’s unique store of knowledge is a valuable resource in its own right, and the reason you should encourage a knowledge-sharing culture in order to deliver even more value.
While it’s important to encourage regular internal communication, valuable knowledge may eventually get lost. It’s important to record and document this knowledge for future use, using the appropriate technology. This further empowers employees to fulfill their role in your mission.
Make Use of Technology
Here’s a list of some of the most useful tools for internal communication and knowledge capture:
- Project management tools: Project management tools like Asana or Monday help your staff to improve their workflows and coordinate more effectively, reducing silos.
- Internal communication apps: It unifies your teams and gets them talking. Many organizations make good use of these internal communication tools like Slack or Troop Messenger to help with improving internal productivity.
- Email: Email is a tried-and-tested way to communicate internally, and one that most people feel comfortable with.
- Live video: GoToMeeting or Zoom are video chat tools that help remote teams achieve the digital equivalent face-to-face communication.
- Knowledge management tools: Knowledge management software like Helpjuice allows staff to capture, find and share important information related to your nonprofit
- Meeting Management: Meeting apps like Soapbox allow staff to plan, schedule and collaborate on meeting agendas, making sure that you're always having effective conversations.
Strike a balance between enabling staff to use the technology they feel comfortable with, while offering a technically robust and secure communications network.
Nonprofits must keep returning to their core mission statement and communicating this message through all internal communications. With the right systems and technologies in place, staff will be more engaged and empowered to fulfill their role in your organization.
You can do more with the resources you already have and deliver more value to your donors and beneficiaries.