I get a lot of questions about what I’m doing these days. My short answer is, “I’m a communication coach for non-profits.” But quite often, that’s not enough to satisfy the dinner party crowd or the inquiries from in-laws. So, here’s the longer version. I happen to think it’s pretty cool!
Let me start with my “why.” Why do I do my communication coaching? Because non-profits are doing some of the best work in our communities and they deserve excellent communications strategies to share their stories.
When a non-profit leader contacts me, I always offer to do a free communications assessment. I get as much information as I can via phone and email and do a quick overview. I have a checklist that I follow loosely. (I’ve included a partial list at the bottom of this post, if you’re interested.)
Then, we meet over coffee or lunch, I ask a lot of questions, and we identify the biggest “holes” in their communications strategies. One common “hole” is the lack of a plan to move casual volunteers and/or donors into a deeper relationship with the organization. Another hole is that many organizations don’t have a social media strategy that makes sense for their particular organization. I try to make our first meeting as valuable as possible so that, if they don’t decide to bring me in to help for a few months, they will still walk away with some valuable feedback and ideas. I like to think of that first meeting as a long chat with a marketing/communications friend. Sometimes a longer working relationship results; sometimes not.
If, after that first meeting, they want to enter into a contract then we start working on the most pressing needs. My goal is to get them to a place where they can do it on their own. I’m not trying to line up long-term clients, although I have found some tend to stick around and so we keep working our way down the list. Part of my value is keeping the momentum going on projects that might otherwise fall between the cracks year after year—important things like presenting a cohesive image, key messaging, and creating a communication plan.
This job is interesting and challenging and something different with every organization. I recently worked with an amazing communication committee to create “personas” for different types of donors so they can personalize their communications to these different segments. We created a Key Messaging Guide for all of their writers to follow and reviewed the website and other key publications to make sure they all deliver the same cohesive message. Yet another non-profit hired me to help them set up and implement an on line fundraising campaign to raise money for a staff position not included in their annual budget. I also did a donor survey and reported findings back to the Board. I worked with an executive director on a three-minute speech and created a introductory video. I’ve even worked with non-profits that need to set up their first newsletter and create or tweak their email template.
One of the toughest parts of starting a venture like communication coaching is establishing trust in the community. I have been fortunate in the past year to be introduced to a long list of non-profits by two great organizations. Mission Increase Foundation‘s Jim Dotson introduced me as a resource for their non-profits during a workshop on communications. I was also one of the featured resources when Crossroads Fellowship‘s Foundation invited all of its grant award winners to a networking event they host each year. These two introductions go a long way toward helping cash-strapped non-profits feel more comfortable about bringing me on board to help. Of course, I’ve worked in and around Raleigh forever. You can read more on that on the About This Blog tab on my blog.
Feel free to share this post with any non-profit leaders or Board members you think might benefit from knowing I’m out here. I LOVE to meet the people who are doing great work in our community and I’m more than happy to help on a short-term basis if they need me. I’m best reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some questions I use when doing an assessment for a non-profit:
- Is your donor database working for your organization?
- Do you have a strategy for contacting donors and keeping up with the information you get from those contacts?
- Do you have a plan for moving casual volunteers/donors into deeper involvement?
- Have your identified your core messaging? Is it showing up in all of your communications?
- Are you segmenting your communications or is everyone getting the same thing?
- Do you have a communication plan and does it compliment your organization’s overall goals?
- Who is your target audience? Are you hitting them? Where are the gaps?
- What about your events? Are they actually achieving their goals? Are there ways to add goals to those events or should they just go away?
- Does your social media presence match your target audience or are you just trying to do it all?
- Does your website match your target audience? Do you have a mobile version?
- What about video and audio resources? Do you prominently display at least one video that captures the heart of your organization?