Nonprofit Communications Strategy: Determine framework for making decisions on tools and tactics


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

If you’ve been following my series on creating a nonprofit communications strategy, we’re just about at the point where we want to make decisions on which tools and tactics to include. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a short series of posts looking at specific communications tools and tactics to consider.

But first I wanted to share considerations for making those decisions. I like to think of them as creating a framework for making decisions. But you might also think of it in other terms such as a “lens” or “filter” for your decision making.

You can’t do everything even if you try. It’s also possible to try to do too much which risks nothing–or not enough–being done well. In some cases, you may not be able to even get to some items and therefore lose out on connectedness between the tools and tactics included.

So you need to have some criteria for what tools and tactics are both priorities and doable.

Reference your strategic approach

In general terms, remember to take into consideration your research and decisions you have made in earlier stages of your nonprofit communications strategy.

Keep in mind questions such as:

  • What is your overall strategic approach?
  • Will it help you achieve your goals and deliver the outcomes you want?
  • Does it make sense for your strategy to have phases? What are you trying to achieve in different phases of your strategy?

Make sure tools and tactics are the right fit

Since there are many options for communications tools and tactics from which to choose, make it a priority to pick communications tools and tactics that:

  • fit with your existing resources or what is obtainable
  • are the most effective communications vehicles to reach your target audiences and influence them with your message(s)

Keep a timetable in mind

Since a timetable helps to keep you organized and to manage your workload.Keep in mind and/or jot down the activities that will take place:

  • before the launch of your communications campaign ex. Is more research required? Is a greater level of detail such as exact costing necessary?
  • to execute the strategy
  • as a follow-up to the completion of implementation such as a review

After you’ve selected your tools and tactics, it’s helpful to have a timeline to set benchmarks for implementation and ensure it is doable. While you might include it formally in your communications strategy, I generally prefer for it to be a separate document to be created after the strategy has been approved in principal and you need a plan for implementation.

Recognize what your budget allows

I recommend keeping budget considerations high level and avoid nitty gritty details. At the same time, some tools and tactics have a price tag attached that make them prohibitive to consider. If possible, I like to look at how resources can be shifted from one part of the communications budget, the departmental budget or the organizational budget to another. But even then some options are clearly not affordable.

I prefer keeping budgetary considerations high level initially to assist you to break out of conventional thinking or traditional organizational behaviours. Too often budget becomes a barrier to creative, strategic thinking much too early in the process.

Keep your nonprofit communications strategy high level

Most importantly, when creating your nonprofit communications strategy use the best possible combination high level thinking and being specific.

Too much detail can mire your strategy in muck and make getting it approved for implementation a difficult if not impossible task. The more detail that exists the more there is to react to and the more likely barriers to implementation are going to be identified. At the same time, you need to be specific enough that people can clearly see the pieces and how they work together.

I suggest taking Hildy Gottleib’s approach to change and figuring out what your desired outcome is and then use backward planning to figure out how to get there. By doing so, you can figure out how to take into account your budget–which may even include enlarging it or identifying reallocations like I mentioned earlier.

A time will come when you will need greater specifics but before need them, you require a road map. Your nonprofit communications strategy is your road map. For the most part, specifics can wait for the next phase moving towards implementation.

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

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