No matter how big or small a nonprofit, there is a common thread: you live or die by the effectiveness of your communications team.
That seems like a pretty bold statement, doesn’t it? Of course there are other areas you feel you live and die by; development and programming tend to come to mind.
However, neither of those areas are successful without a slam-dunk communications strategy. Think about it. Every single sentence that is written, every solicitation, every mailer is (should be) a communication with your donor/partnerships/community. To succeed more wholly in all other areas you need to shore up your communications strategy and make sure your team is on board. Success comes when all your team members: board members, key volunteers and staff learn to work outside of their silos and see where all the parts overlap. All roads lead back to communication!
What does an effective communications committee look like for a small shop without paid staff? There can be more teams and additional responsibilities but this is a great (and thorough) place to begin:
Communications Committee Roles and Responsibilities
Creating content is a necessary part of your work with a nonprofit organization, so it can’t be ignored. But, it doesn’t have to be tackled alone. Here are a few ways to break out the duties from one person to a committee that will lighten the load for everyone.
Who you’ll need:
- a Type A personality. Someone who is organized and extremely detail-oriented. You’ll want this person to compile research, grant deadlines and establish benchmarks for each project. This person can also keep tabs on the information being collected and ask other committee members for what’s missing. This person can also make sure all the grant requirements are being followed exactly. This person would make a good grant committee chair.
- a decent writer. Someone who can take lots of great information and make sense of it for readers/grant funders who may be learning about your organization for the first time. A fancy writing degree isn’t necessary, but a person is who can write good sentences that cover all the bases of each grant or communications piece, and make the changes to each grant draft as suggested by the rest of the committee.
- a financial person (if you’re focused on writing grants). Someone with access to all the financial documents of the organization. The person who can pull the entire fiscal year budget, or break budgets out program by program. This person would be able to provide a list of other foundations/corporations/donors that have already contributed to the project for which your team is seeking funding. This person could be the treasurer of the board, or someone else who is good with numbers.
- a program person (if you’re communicating impact). Who knows the ins and outs of your organization’s mission and how that mission is carried out? Who can speak to challenges, successes and impact? Keep that person close by.
- the executive director or development director. A must-have. This person will have the final say in when a piece is sufficient and finished, or delegate another person to approve/adjust content.
Communication among this team is key. Regular check-in phone calls and a shared Dropbox account with all the necessary files will make this process easier. Lean on each other, remain accountable to each other and dig in! Many hands make light work.