Helping Nonprofits Communicate

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Crisis Communication: When to Talk, When to Keep Quiet

Managing crisis communications is something we’ve been thinking through lately. Being able to advise our clients on how to manage a potential crisis communications event is important to us. Yesterday we sat in on a Bloomerang webinar to listen to expert Brian Goldthorpe of Privledged Communication. He advises his clients on how to communicate effectively during a crisis, and we were glad to see that some of the things we’ve recommended to our clients have his stamp of approval.

Privledged Communication defines a crisis as any situation that threatens a nonprofit’s reputation or causes distraction that can interfere with its regular operations. So, “crisis” doesn’t have to mean that you’re communicating to manage a negative event, but that a good reason to be communicating can be just as disruptive to a nonprofit’s operations.

Here are a few key points to remember:

  • Not everything warrants a response. Is someone speaking negatively about your organization? If their concern is valid, address it. If it’s not think about how much energy you want to spend trying to quell this person (which may not be any).
  • If the concern is valid, silence can be seen as an admission of guilt. You’ll have to respond with something, so craft your messaging accordingly.
  • When is the right time for a response? The most important thing isn’t getting your messaging out there quickly, but responding when your strategic response is ready. You can let your audience know you’re listening to their concerns by sending word that you’ve heard them and you’ll be commenting shortly.
  • Donors scrutinize their favorite organizations. Assure them that things are fine if in fact they really are. Maintain that level of trust at all costs.
  • Finally, trial and error is OK. What one organization communicates during a crisis isn’t necessarily going to be right for another organization. You know your audience better than anyone, so consider that when you craft your messaging.

Here’s hoping that whatever crisis your nonprofit will face will be a positive one.

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