The COVID-19 pandemic has caught many nonprofit organizations and companies without a Crisis Communications Plan. Communicating with a unified message protects the organization’s reputation while building confidence in its leadership. If your nonprofit is not already working on a long-term plan, I recommend you take the following steps this week to prepare.
1. Identify a Communications Team: This is the group of leadership staff members and sometimes board members who communicate with key stakeholders. The Executive Director in a smaller organization can manage this group and in larger charities, the Development or Marketing Director leads the team in daily meetings.
2. Create a Crisis Summary Sheet: Updated and distributed daily, this document is tailored for each audience. It includes these key messages:
Cause of crisis
Brief description of what happened
How organization is addressing the crisis
Timetable for future plans
Express compassion for all involved
Address steps for protection if appropriate
3. Tailor communications: Keep the key stakeholders in mind when deciding the what and how to communicate. One size does not fit all when it comes to internal and external audiences. Phone calls are important to major donors, key funders and program partners. Social media, website and e-newsletter can be used for communicating with other audiences. Be sure to identify which constituents need a personalized message or additional focus during this time.
4. Do not mix messages: Donors at every giving level are experiencing financial uncertainty about their job, small business, retirement and investments. When reaching out, let them know that as valued supporters, you felt it important they know how the organization is addressing the pandemic. Recognize them by thanking them for their support now and the future. Be careful about including an appeal in your initial messages. A soft request or reminder to help is fine.
As you speak with donors and funders, they will ask about financial needs. Have information ready to send at their request.
5. Keep audiences informed: Once you’ve reached out, it is important to keep everyone updated – it builds loyalty and confidence. As the crisis begins to resolve, donors will reach out and ask what is needed.
The next few weeks, even months will be challenging for our entire community. Together, we will get through this. To help you get started, I’ve included a checklist for your Crisis Communications Strategy.
Michelle Crim, CFRE
Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.