“Corporate folks do a horrible job of communicating impact.” This is what one gentleman recently said to me when I interviewed him for a client project. “Marketing has real value for them. Nonprofits don’t do that very well.”
I was, admittedly, a bit flabbergasted. It’s rare that someone speaks so candidly about the challenges that face our various sectors. The Community Involvement Study that is about to be released by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, will help tell the story about how community involvement contributes to reputational and employee related business goals.
But returning to my interviewee’s point: nonprofits rarely focus resources on communications and marketing. The reason is completely understandable: if faced with a line of people outside my door who need help accessing social services, my priority is to assist them before I start developing and implementing a communications strategy. That seems like an easy decision. And yet – if I don’t let the rest of the world know about the good work I am doing, I’ll be less successful in identifying various resources to sustain my programs. If I don’t ensure that my sponsors feel valued (and get value for their contributions), then they will likely take their money elsewhere. As a nonprofit, I need to appropriately thank my sponsors, and this goes beyond thanking them from the podium, or telling them how many people attended an event. I need to ask my point-of-contact at the corporate sponsor, “How are you going to be evaluated on the impact of your contribution? To what will you be held accountable?” Then I will have a better sense of what I need to focus on to ensure that my sponsor feels valued – whether that is media impressions, information disseminated, or simply that their table guests (i.e., important clients) have a fabulous time!
Regardless of what sector you are in, communications is a critical function. It takes targeted, consistent communications to tell your story that will intrigue the various stakeholders that you are trying to reach.