Make Effective Internal Communications a Priority
Have you ever given thought to your nonprofit’s internal communications? Every day, you communicate several times to a variety of people within your organization, using various communication methods. Are these communications effective? Do you reach the internal audience that you intend to engage when you communicate? When you audit your internal systems, is there something missing in context audience wide? Much time and effort are spent by organizations seeking to communicate with external audiences. Is the same effort applied internally? In my experience, internal communications within organizations leave something to be desired.
Charity Village notes that you spend a great deal of time talking to external audiences, while neglecting to communicate internally with your own staff.
It provides a few tips to creating better internal communications. These tips are:
- Engage your employees and excite them about your cause through storytelling.
- Understand your audiences and how best to communicate with them.
- Communicate regularly through staff meetings, newsletters, phone calls and be consistent.
- Leverage technology through Google Docs, Smartsheet.com and Salesforce.com.
- Don’t forget to share because internal audiences want to know what is going on.
MissionBox points out that internal communication within your nonprofit is vital. Everyone needs to be aligned with your organizational strategic goals. You must rely on the intranet, emails, weekly internal newsletter or scheduled face-to-face meetings for communication. You should also consider message apps such as Slack, WhatsApp and Workplace by Facebook.
The Communications Network recaps a presentation given at the Communications Network’s 2016 Annual Conference by Rodney Jordan, formerly from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and now at McDonald’s, and Mike Smith from the James Irvine Foundation. They said internal communications is like a romantic comedy.
Employees can be an organization’s biggest ambassadors or greatest critics. Intentional internal communications can play a critical role in expanding an organization’s brand and help employees feel more knowledgeable, connected and appreciated. The same thought processes that go into external communications should go into internal communications. Internal communications should be framed around organizational alignment, employee engagement and brand ambassadorship.
Whole Whale states that without proper communication, nothing would get done. It is noted that a 2011 report, “The Cost of Poor Communications,” revealed that a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an annual loss per company of $62.4 million due to inadequate communications. Workplaces need internal communication to successfully complete projects and nonprofits need external communication to drive impact.
A list of internal digital communication tools that nonprofits can use include:
- Slack—An easy to use real time messenger tool. Integrates with Google Drive, MailChimp, Zapier and Dropbox.
- Asana—A project management tool that allows you to create different projects, tasks and subtasks within projects.
- Google Hangouts—An instant messaging service formerly known as Gchat.
- Trello—It is a project management tool designed around boards and lists.
- Basecamp—A project management tool that complies your to-dos, communications, schedules and files.
- Zoom—A video conferencing tool that includes instant messenger and webinar capabilities.
- GotoMeeting—A conferencing tool that includes instant messenger and webinar capabilities compatible with Microsoft Office.
- UberConference—A free conference tool that focuses on people that has quick phone calls.
The Nonprofit MarCommunity guide notes that there is not much difference between an external and internal communications plan.
Key components of an internal communications plan are:
- Who—your audience, which consists of board, staff, donors, sponsors, funders, volunteers and customer service people, etc.
- What—Your goal and main announcement. What news are your sharing and why? What is the point you want to make through communication?
- How—Will you get your message out?
Measure and evaluate your internal communications plan. Share a mixture of qualitative and quantitative points to provide a full picture.
Forbes Nonprofit Council asked whether your staff is informed and excited about your mission as your donors and volunteers? What if you could turn your workforce into advocates? Your employees should believe in what you do and know how to tell the organization’s story.
Here are a few easy steps to take to increase employee engagement and help achieve the overall mission:
- Make the information available through a variety of social media outlets.
- Ask for everyone that is internal to the organization help in distributing information.
- Get to know your staff, what makes them excited and how best to communicate with them.
- Encourage content by asking employees to provide stories on their work behind the scenes.
- Be intentional about internal communications by sharing information with everyone in the organization so they are better informed. They need to be brand ambassadors.
Strive to improve both external and internal communications within your organization. You cannot totally succeed by working in silos. The more everyone in your organization knows about your area, the more they will advocate for you. Seek to build a team organizational team concept. It can only be done through a well thought out and executed communications plan.
The concept of communications is an area where many nonprofits need to improve, and a sound communications plan begins at the top of the organization. Make communications with your staff and priority and spread your communication information house wide. Be consistent with your message and seek transparency. Make effective internal organizational communications a priority beginning now!
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.