12 Insider Tips to Improve Your Charity Comms Strategy

Here at Voluntary Sector Communications Group, we’ve supported over 500 charities in getting the most from their communications services.

For over a decade, we‘ve been in a position to truly understand the challenges of operating a charity successfully, designing cost-effective solutions for our customers, so that funds can remain where they’re needed most.

In that same time, we’ve had so many discussions around how charities can maximise the effectiveness of their communications, both internally and externally. And that’s exactly why we’ve created this guide.

From emails to press releases, these top tips will help you deliver great communications, not only helping you communicate successfully, but also enhance the virality of your communications, and spread your good news as far as possible.

So, keep on reading to discover our 12 top tips to improve your charity’s communications.

1. What’s your purpose?

Very philosophical – we know – but we’re not talking about your purpose in life, more the charity’s! Just like in the commercial world, your messaging works best when it’s informed by- and links to- your overall mission statement and culture.

And then there’s the purpose of the email as well! Think about the one thing you’d want every reader of your communication to do, and make sure that’s the focus of your message.

This is where CTAs (Calls to Action) come in – whether it’s asking readers to visit a website, download a document , or any other sort of behaviour you desire – make sure the action you want your readers to take is clear (and preferably repeated at least once) within the correspondence.

2. Who are you communicating with?

If you’ve got multiple CTAs in your message asking readers to do different things, there’s a chance you may be communicating with more than one audience…

Segmentation is key when producing your communications because the right message to the wrong audience will still fall on deaf ears. Consider your target audience…

Is it:

  • Service users?
  • Partners?
  • Volunteers?
  • Stakeholders?
  • The wider public?

Each one of these audiences (and our list is by no means exhaustive) will resonate with different messaging. Good segmentation will help you identify the right tone and content to include, while preventing people from ‘switching-off’ from your comms in the future, after receiving correspondence that wasn’t of interest in the past.

3. Plan ahead

Consider how you communicate when you’ve got a hundred and one things running through your mind… You can’t get words out in the right order, forget important points and people pick up on your rushed nature. It’s exactly the same for all your other forms of communication too.

There’s not much worse for your charity’s credibility than a rushed email or flyer, with typos or visual mistakes etc. detracting from your amazing mission to support your community, which is why planning in advance is so important!

If possible, try to have your communications ready a week in advance, as well as organising a shared calendar that has all your comms in one place, for a better ‘bird’s eye view’. This gives your stakeholders time to read and approve the overall message, make sure it’s not going to battle against any other outreach, as well as offering plenty of opportunity for a quick re-read to prevent any silly typos slipping under the radar!

4. Use social media for support

Social media is the quickest and cheapest way to spread your message, which makes it a great communications tool. Encourage your volunteers and employees to share your major communications, especially on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Video is also a great way to show the change you’re driving in the community, and is 10x more likely to get engagement from followers than a typical written post! So, try to film testimonials, reviews and any other suitable comms in the form of videos, if you can.

As with any other form of communication, it’s important to proof everything you post on social media, given that it will last as long as your account! And no matter which platforms your using, make sure you include appropriate hashtags to drum up extra interest, and include a CTA, as we mentioned before!

5. Bear your budget in mind

As you start exploring social media platforms, you’ll also find that posts can be promoted, to be put in front of more faces than would organically, for a small payment. While this may seem like a cost-effective way to maximise your outreach, costs can quickly spiral. So, make sure you’re always keeping one eye on your budget!

The costs of promotional flyers, branded clothing, equipment and generally running your charity all require money, which makes fundraising another key aspect of your communications.

When you’re bidding for financial support, make sure you ‘paint a picture’ that describes the positive outcomes of your strategy and the impact you’ll have on the community. Make sure to match the bid’s terminology, include supporting facts and figures, and remove any jargon that may put off readers.

Also, you could try reaching out to local businesses for any financial support, donations or sponsorship of events making very clear to the business what the benefits on offer are, for their support and the cost of involvement.

6. Nominate a ‘champion’

Whether it’s a new fundraising campaign, an important message to volunteers or looking after a social media channel, having communications ‘champions’ can help you offload a little responsibility, while enhancing your communications.

Your champion could be anyone within the organisation, paid or volunteer, who is tasked with a certain responsibility. It could be creating content on a particular subject, making sure any posts get liked and shared by the wider team, or recruiting new fundraisers.

Whatever your need, delegate it to your champion of choice to free a bit of your time, give someone else an opportunity to shine and maximise the reach of your content!

7. Gather data

Even with limited budgets, it’s important to show that the money was well spent, so make sure you record as much information about your communications as possible.

Statistics around social engagement, funds raised, testimonials from service users and volunteers, all help convince those responsible for funding bids that your cause is the right one to choose!

It will also help you identify the themes and specific social posts and wider communications that really resonated with your audience. Then you can double-down on those factors in the future to increase the effectiveness of your other comms.

8. Record everything

You may already have to record all your voice communications for broader compliance, but it’s still an important point to make. You should save a copy of all your communications – voiced and written for future reference – just in case.

Considering that charities generally support the most vulnerable in your community, you need to be able to vet the communications your volunteers and employees are having with service users.

This also means ensuring your devices – computers, tablets, mobiles – are all backed-up, so that if one breaks, all the data is saved elsewhere, so that you don’t lose a single file or recording – again this may be an aspect of your wider compliance that is already required.

9. Stay positive

While it can be easy to point out the failings of government departments and competing causes, positive messages resonate far better with the public than ones of criticism.

Even if you need to call-out a fault, try to emphasise the positive aspect of your message – your increased fundraising support for a vulnerable group, rather than the cut in budget – for example.

That’s not to say you can’t be critical, but make sure it’s not the focus of your communication because it’s usually the ‘headline’ that gets traction, and if you’re seen to judge others too often, you may start to lose your credibility in the community!

10. Work within your community

Of course you work within your community – that’s the whole point of your charity! But having a permanent base of operations where members of the public can drop by, and better understand your charity’s culture and purpose is a great way to strengthen relationships and become a permanent organisation in the community.

It could be your local community centre, or a café run by your volunteers, or something more specific to your cause – it doesn’t even have to be open every day – but as long as members of the community know where and when you’re available, you’ll start seeing an uptake in engagement!

11. Share your wins

Where possible showcase your work as best practice. Sharing best practice will identify and fill gaps in knowledge, enable better decision making and establish you as an authority in your field, enhancing your credibility.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to help other organisations in your field and share ideas, celebrating the efforts of those who made your success possible, as well as providing you the opportunity to possibly charge for consultancy work.

Supporting those around you is an integral part of your charity, and connecting ideas is where innovation comes from. Therefore it makes sense to share what you’ve learnt with like-minded organisations, for the betterment of all, and connecting with people makes those ideas come to life.

12. Consider your volunteers

One of your most precious resources as a charity is your team of volunteers – people who have given their time to further your cause. So, it makes sense to use them to maximise the effectiveness of your communications.

However, your volunteers may not all be as tech savvy as you’d like, so make sure you understand where they can best support your organisation – some may be better suited to admin roles, while energetic, tech-savvy supporters may be better equipped to look after social media channels.

No matter who, make it easy for them to share communications with their friends and fmaily, celebrate their fundraising achievements and the efforts they go to in supporting their local community. Volunteers are also most likely to share your cause with others, so be sure to recognise and appreciate the work they do!

While all these points may seem like an impossible number of balls to juggle whenever you’re crafting comms for your charity, how you use these points is completely up to you. You could think of it like a checklist, or focus on one point each week until you’ve got them all down and memorised as best practice.

However if you’d like to use this advice, our experience in supporting the voluntary sector has informed each one of these points and we know they work!

We also know that charities can reduce comms spend by 30% on average, simply by working with the Voluntary Sector Communications Group! Over the last decade, we’ve helped over 500 charities take advantage of better, more cost-effective communication and connectivity services.

We don’t just want to be your IT & Telecoms partner, we want to be patrons together, and we can’t wait to collaborate on enhancing your charity’s communications services soon!

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