Money and Message Go Hand-in-Hand

[We welcome Jo-Ann Mort and Judith Wineman who will be contributing regularly to eJewishPhilanthropy about communications and development strategies for non-profits, foundations and donors.]

Money and Message Go Hand-in-Hand
Strategies for Effective Communications and Resource Development

by Jo-Ann Mort and Judith Wineman

In today’s economy, nonprofit organizations need to have all the tools they can find to sustain their organizations. And it’s most impactful if all of the tools available to a nonprofit sync together, especially regarding outreach.

That’s why every successful development plan needs a communications strategy. A successful nonprofit will be one that communicates its fundraising needs and efforts to donors, prospects, and those able to influence the outcome that fulfills an organization’s mission. It is one that invests in building the necessary relationships to sustain the work over the long term. But it is also crucial that anyone working on fundraising and development is versed in the same messages about the organization as would be a press or communications expert.

One of the advantages of operating within an integrated communications and development framework is that it creates a holistic approach to the work. By building a strong external pitch to funders that is timely and mission-based, as well as an infrastructure (the development plan) that provides many categories of opportunities for which to search, cultivate and steward donors, you are advancing your cause exponentially.

This development framework should be focused on resource development, which means long-term, sustained support. We use resource development rather than the more familiar word, fundraising, because we believe that funding nonprofits should be based on a comprehensive strategic plan, as well as developing resources such as donor networks, cultivating and stewarding donors, events, corporate sponsorships.

Additionally, a combined communications and resource development strategy means that a non-profit should consider additional audiences when promoting their organization, doing media, or other types of outreach. For instance, press outreach should be targeted to news outlets that donors read – or their peer group reads – in addition to news organizations that would be directly related to an organization’s mission. Similarly, as an organization develops its “elevator speech,” the indispensable summary paragraph that describes an organization’s mission and goals, be sure to prepare an elevator speech, too, for donors – not simply remarks for you or your board members to do an ask, but for the donors to become part of the messaging, so that they can take an elevator speech to their own friends and colleagues.

Be sure that all materials about your organization are donor-ready. Donors want to see thoughtful presentations that give them a sense of well being about the stewardship of their financial investment. An organization’s website is critical to a successful approach. Even if your website is about outreach to the constituency you serve, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also think about how the website looks and what information it lists to current and potential donors.

This is also the case for any social media. In our age of googling before a meeting to learn about the person you are about to meet, it’s important that the non-profit and its leadership be aware of the organization’s social media profile as well as any more formal presentations.

Nurturing and growing a non-profit is most successful when the message and the money work hand in hand. The marriage of strategic communications and resource development brings a return on donors’ investment, enhancing clarity and strengthening visibility for an organization in a way that fundraising and resource development plans alone cannot.

After all, fundraising is not simply about asking people for money. It is about inspiring people to believe that they can make a difference and then, helping them to make it by communicating to them about their return on investment.

Inspiring people to give means that you must be able to craft messages and materials that reflect their interests and at the same time show them what they will be getting by clearly charting who they will help, why they will help, how quickly they will help (or how much time, in fact, social change takes and therefore preparing donors for a more long-term investment) for their support.

Jo-Ann Mort is CEO of ChangeCommunications, a strategic consulting firm based in New York City with clients in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere. Before starting her company 5 years ago, Jo-Ann directed communications for the Jewish Funders Network and also for the US Programs of the Soros foundations network, OSF.

Judith Wineman, of Resource Development Consultants, works with ChangeCommunications on behalf of clients.