Nonprofit Communications Strategy: Outlining the context, goals and objectives

This post is part of my series: How to create a nonprofit communications strategy

You’ve completed your research. Now it’s time to get to work and start drafting your nonprofit communications strategy.

The first section outlines the context for the strategy. This post also covers setting your goals and objectives.

Outline the context of your nonprofit communications strategy

The context section answers questions such as:

  • What led to the requirement for a communications plan?
  • Where are we now?
  • What issues in our operating environment will have an impact on this initiative?

What communications issues need to be considered?

I suggest covering in general terms communication issues that need to be taken into consideration..

  • resources
  • noisy environment
  • competition
  • opposition

This opening section sets the stage for the strategy that follows. You’re not only setting the context but making a rational argument for conclusions reached by analyzing your research.

Keep this context section short. It’s meant to be an overview not a detailed report. Its main purpose is to help set the stage for anyone reviewing the strategy that is not familiar with the research and analysis that preceded its creation.

Establish your goals & objectives

The next section of your nonprofit communications strategy is where you establish what you are striving to achieve. Defining your goals and objectives will help you focus on the who, why, when and how.

Goals are the long-term, overall changes you wish to cause. 

For example: To raise awareness of women 18 – 25 of our agency’s unique role in the community

Objectives are the short-term, measurable steps you take to reach your goal.

For example:

  • Increase by 100% the number of women 18 – 25 who like our Facebook page by the end of 2013.
  • See a trend over the year of increased engagement by women 18 – 25 with a target of 23%

Typically there are multiple objectives for each goal.

When deciding on your organization’s objectives, ask and answer questions such as:

  • Are we seeking to provide new information?
  • Are we calling the audience to action?
  • Are we seeking to change behaviour?

Your objectives should form a clear statement of what it is you are trying to do. Make sure they are SMART:

SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Achievable,
  • Realistic and
  • Time scaled

Make your objectives measurable

I believe that being measurable is the most important criteria for an objective. That’s how you can determine if you have been successful.

Admittedly, measuring communications can be difficult. But it’s necessary and the first step is get started.

Avoid measuring quantity for the sake of quantity. A large number of Facebook fans doesn’t matter if it includes few of the people you’re most trying to reach. Even if that demographic is present, engaging them is critically important.

The best measurements are usually operational.

For example:

  • Has registration for daycamp increased?
  • Is daycamp registration happening sooner? Is it being sold out sooner?

Making a direct connection between your communications efforts and these type of operational changes can seem impossible. Yet if everything else is essentially the same (ex. prices, program offering, sites, transportation, etc.) you can be confident that there is a connection between new communications efforts and the desired operational changes. Are you going to make any changes such as these:

  • Have you started communicating throughout the year with campers and/or parents?
  • Are you sending an e-mail to campers parents to let them know when registration opens?
  • Are you sending follow up e-mails to parents that haven’t opened earlier e-mails or who haven’t registered yet?

More to come on this topic! Can’t wait, check out Measuring the Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and KD Paine.

Do you have any advice related to context, goals or objectives in a nonprofit communications plan?

Read the other posts in my series: How to create a nonprofit communications strategy