Much like a tree in the woods that falls with no one to hear it, does a nonprofit do good work if no one knows about it? Obviously not, but any organization can strengthen its reach and impact by integrating effective communications into operations. Done well, a solid communications plan can lead to more participant referrals, increases in resources, and greater trust from the local community.

As part of our Strengthening Youth through a Network of Care (SYNC) initiative, Get IN Chicago recently welcomed two communications experts from our donor partner Allstate Corporation: Brian Faith, Managing Director of External Relations, and Pam Morris, Media Relations Manager. Prior to Allstate, both worked in journalism, public affairs, and public relations, giving them unique insight into how nonprofits can communicate with media and more.

The communications session focused on story – specifically, defining it, telling it, and reaching key stakeholders. What follows are questions that any organization can use to create a communications plan or improve an existing one.

What’s Your Story?
Most nonprofit organizations have hundreds of stories they could tell about their work and impact. However, you typically only have about 30 seconds to share your story with someone. Elevator pitches aren’t only for startups and jobseekers; all nonprofits should have a brief rundown that includes the most important information about who they are, what they do, what sets them apart, and why people should care.

Who is Your Audience?
Donors, grant makers, community members, other nonprofit organizations, potential employees, government entities, young people, current volunteers, potential volunteers, current program participants, potential program participants, board members – the people who make up your audience might be a large and varied group. Create a list of whom you hope to reach, and then rank and prioritize those groups. The result can give direction as to where you should focus your communications efforts. Also, remember: different audiences may want and need different information, so don’t hesitate to tailor your story accordingly.

get in chicago communications

How and Where Will You Tell Your Story?
Communications efforts need not be limited to your website and annual mailing campaign, although those are excellent places to start. Expand your list of potential communications channels and consider the following:

    • Hard copy mailings
    • Digital Communications
    • Press Releases
    • Traditional Media
    • Social Media
    • Websites and Blogs
    • Conferences and Presentations
    • Events


Putting It All Together
Finally, make sure you have a plan in place. Create a strategy, stick to it, and check in to see how your efforts are progressing.

As a follow-up, each SYNC partner created updated communications and development plans, using guidance gleaned from the training session. We are grateful to the Allstate team for generously offering feedback!