Communications is critical to fundraising of any sort. No communications means no fundraising. Whether it’s how you craft your story, spread the word or engage your community of supporters, communications is a first step.
If you are incredibly fortunate, you may be surrounded by a team of communications professionals and social media mavens. But for most community benefit organizations that are changing the world on a grassroots level, everyone is likely wearing many hats. When you are both fundraising and taking on communications on a bare bones budget, you need to get the most bang for your buck.
Time is money.
Before we get into shaving expenses, let’s address the elephant in the room. Time is the greatest expense of any communications effort.
Have you ever found yourself updating your various social media channels then suddenly look up to find that it’s dark out and everyone around you has left for the day?
While social media can be great for outreach, it’s hell on time management. Then factor in blog posts to write, newsletters to schedule, press releases to publish, a website to update, coffee dates to attend and parties to sneak into.
Oh, and also donors to cultivate, proposals to churn out, grant reports to write and gifts to acknowledge. All this and chances are, you haven’t even scratched the surface of your actual to-do list. Or had lunch.
All of these things take time. And when you are doing communications on a shoestring, you need everything to be as efficient as possible. So what are the must-have tactics to an efficient communications game plan? Let’s dive in.
An editorial calendar is a core element to communications. Taking the time to map your content out ahead of time will not only save you energy in the long run, it will also give you a peace of mind. When brainstorming your communications calendar, be sure to drop in some scheduled time to batch all of your tasks. Batching is the secret sauce to getting things done efficiently.
Creating content to engage your supporters is a never-ending full time job in and of itself. The key to saving yourself precious time? Repurpose your content. Rather than re-writing a special update to your donors, simply share a link to your latest blog post. Cross-promote your newsletter on all of your social media channels. Recycle any old content that you’ve created with a fresh, “where are they now” update.
When creating a piece of content, think about all the channels your could activate. For example, you could film an interview and format it for a podcast. Then transcribe it into a blog post, grab a few choice quotes, visuals and clips to sprinkle throughout your social media. Link to it all in your newsletter with one strong visual and ask people to share.
You get the idea. Create it once, use it again and again.
Leverage the press.
That’s what they are there for after all. Send them your press releases, ask them to cover your work or offer to be an expert for a story that is related to your cause. Let them do the legwork, then share what they’ve put together. You could also sign up with Help a Reporter Out to find a way in.
Empower your people.
Make it easy for your volunteers, supporters, donors and cheerleaders to share and amplify your work. Pre-write snippets for them to copy and paste, and make sure what you send them is simple to forward out to their network.
Learn for free.
As technology changes, so do our methods of communication. Keeping up to date can feel like a high-speed chase. Thankfully there are all kinds of free workshops and instruction videos online to help you get your skills up to snuff (hello Youtube.)
Always ask before buying.
Even if you are not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, always ask whether what you need can be donated to your cause. You might be surprised at what you can get for free these days in the name of making a positive difference in the world. Some commonly donated items include advertising space, software services, computer equipment and office supplies. It never hurts to ask.