Does Your Community Know Your Organizational Story?
Each one of us begins a new week with a to-do list filled with various items of importance. Some items are short-term in nature. Others are large-term in process. Our jobs are complex and you must determine through a maze of activities what takes priority on your calendar. Our jobs are not easy and, in fact, are very demanding. Most of us work for nonprofits because we care about the human condition. You will not get rich in material wealth working in our profession.
You will be rich in spirit with the knowledge you are promoting mankind. Speaking of promoting, do you ever think about how much the community knows about your organization? The easy answer is everyone is aware of us. The truth is the community may know your name, but is not aware of the depths of what your organization has done or will do to make a true difference in the community you serve. Their knowledge of your functionality may make a difference in your case for support over time.
When I worked for universities I did not pay much attention to the community we served. I was totally focused on the internal university family of staff, board, students, alumni, parents and close friends of the institution. I constantly created vehicles for these constituencies to interact with the university. When I represented hospitals I focused on staff, board, physicians, nurses, patients and the close partners of the community. These partners worked with hospitals in specific ways. Once again, I did not expand my reach to the greater city and region they represented in any degree of depth.
When I began employment with a large, well known social service agency that is deeply involved in providing services to the underserved in the community, I decided to test the community to see what they really knew about my organization. Boy, was I amazingly surprised at their lack of knowledge of our annual client service facts, including the fact that we serve thousands of people on an annual basis.
For example, I took my CEO on visits with other CEOs of leading hospitals in the community. These hospitals annually provide millions of dollars in charity benefit to the communities they serve in a variety of ways. The majority of these community benefits represents health care write-offs for charity-care patients.
Not one of the hospital system CEOs knew the depth of the services our organization provided, much less the potential that our organization could possibly provide for them as future partners. The fact was our organization had not made a continuous historical effort to seek a wide array of partnerships and educate major employers and organizations on what we do.
If you want to make sure the community truly knows you as you would like to be known, I suggest you consider implementing a few basic techniques:
1. Create a “to the point” presentation to be used with community leaders about your organization. Incorporate print for a leave behind community impact piece, plus video and stories of impact to stimulate. Make this presentation part of your face-to-face meet-and-greet strategy.
2. Rehearse with your CEO and key leaders your face-to-face presentation when meeting with various community leaders. You want to introduce your organization to the community, learn about their organizations and see if there are any mutual areas of potential future partnerships between organizations.
3. Create a targeted list of companies that closely align with your organizational services. Look at major community employers and ask your board members to be door openers for you. Determine what you would like to gain from the meeting in advance of the meeting. It may be as simple as greater awareness of your organization and their organization.
4. Bring together a focus group of community thought leaders, and discuss what they know about your organization and gather their thoughts on how to best present your organization to the community.
5. Create a board marketing committee with print, radio, television, social media etc. representatives to determine how to best market your organization in ways you want the community to understand your mission and how to promote your community impact. Tell your story and make sure major community stakeholders are aware of your relevance.
They always say perception is reality, unless reality is presented in a way that is impactful and remembered. Discuss with your internal constituencies what they think of your organization and how best to promote your organizational story to the community. You will be surprised at the positive results gained over time as impact awareness grows.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.