Through my interaction with friends and family in philanthropic fields, one thing I learnt is that the stories they bring home will warm your heart, or tear it apart. Nonetheless, as a marketer, I’m always curious as to how they achieve their communications strategies.
One charity organisation planned to use posters and regional radio stations to share information about basic public services in a remote village in Tanzania. The challenge was: not everyone has access to a marketplace, clinic or school where a poster may be placed. Those with access to a radio are few and far between.
Reaching far-flung villages across developing countries is still a challenge for most foundations. However, to tackle this situation, under the advisory of their marketing team, they reasoned that everyone needs soap. The foundation then partnered with a soap company and printed their message on the packaging. Simple, yet clever communication, and it worked.
Communication and Strategy are one and the same
Communications is not just strategic or part of strategy: communications is strategy.
Let’s dive in to what it takes to integrate communication strategies into the DNA of foundations.
Communication Strategy shouldn’t be an after thought
We try to avoid using the word ‘strategies,’ as in ‘communication strategies or strategic communications.’ After all, all communications should be strategic.
Although, if communications is strategy, why is it so often the very last thing to be considered in philanthropic projects? Take the example above. The solution was a last-minute add-on making the foundation miss out on the full value of activities and investments they would have otherwise tapped into.
Communications is more than just promotion and visibility: it’s all the ways a foundation develops its projects and the effort put in by its grantees. This is accomplished by connecting with clients, community leaders, the press, donors, peer organizations, funders, and other constituencies.
Collaboration is Key.
A collaboration is necessary between the marketing team, like the Digital Marketers at Digital Beehive Africa, and the development team.
The development team know their audience, goals, and objectives; they know how to communicate with their donors and prospects.
The Marketing team find the best ways to communicate with the audience and the most suitable methods to employ. When such an association is made during the initial stages of a project, goals and targets are more than likely to be achieved.
6 reasons why non-profits need communications:
- To educate and inform the public to change their behaviour, e.g., stop smoking, or raise awareness about an issue e.g., climate change
- To advocate for change policies or with their leaders, applying public pressure for policy change
- Marketing and Advertising to sell tickets to an event, memberships or subscriptions
- Publicity and awareness to make the foundation known to many, make an event, action or issue visible
- To reach and engage with members, recruit volunteers or staff; create partnerships with government leaders and community leaders
- To fundraise by communicating with prospective donors to raise money.
We’ve all heard it: “Fail to plan. Plan to fail.” Whether it’s a marketing campaign case statement, direct mail appeal, or donor impact report. Integrating communication strategies into the DNA of foundations helps amplify the foundation’s voice. This can be a powerful asset for bringing credibility, purpose, and a certain gravitas that commands respect.
At Digital Beehive Africa, we’ve learned that planning ahead and having good communication, being open to alternative ideas, meeting periodically, and discussing ideas together creates the most effective approach to making an impact.
It’s startling how many foundations view communications as one-way; about getting people to do what they want them to do. They could have a website, blogs and social media pages, but zero engagement. This is because the content centers around statements like, we did, we do, we will do, and so on.
Instead of questions like, what more can we do? How can we improve? Do you care about this or that? And so on.
Communications, whether it’s internal amongst colleagues, or external via marketing, advertising and public relations, it should:
• Be clear, easy to understand, and beneficial to your audience
• Answer objectives and goals of the project, as well as foster behaviour change
• Evaluate or research support of progress/action
This is a good time to firmly advise that if your organisation is not online (website and/or social media), then you’re missing out on so many opportunities and potential for growth.
Get online with the Digital Bees at Digital Beehive Africa here.
Communications strategies at non-profits, foundations and charity organisations are post-script, with little to no budget, and left for the end of a big project. Then, when the project starts coming apart at the seams is when the communications department steps in to cobble something together.
Having a communications team that can create a cohesive communications strategy is truly the only way to unlock the power of all the content and knowledge produced out of foundations’ investments in social change.
You can support a world-changing project, one that could solve all the world’s problems —and you can fund people to test how effective an amazing it was. Nonetheless, to get people to care, you need to talk about it, and get others to talk about it too. So that you can engage the right audiences and stakeholders, and create momentum for the change you want to see.
About Digital Beehive Africa
Digital Beehive Africa is a social impact digital marketing agency in Nairobi, Kenya, that reaches customers online through omnichannel marketing, multichannel marketing, or single-channel marketing. We partner with businesses, philanthropic organisations and brands across Africa.
Let’s change the world together.
Get in touch here.