How to Manage Your Communications

With all that you do, it's easy sometimes to forget about an avenue of communication that you had previously created. Your communication tools are like wheels; they need to be constantly moving in order to work. Managing all of it can sometimes be difficult and it's easy to let things slip.
So how do you manage everything?

It's important for you to assess all of your communications and determine what is needed and what isn't. If you have so many communication materials you can't keep track of them all, then you have too many. Too many things may confuse your donors as well. It's important to have a streamlined communications process that informs donors but doesn't bombard them with information.

Separate everything into different categories according to what needs attention. For example, your brochure once it's created and printed doesn't require a lot of upkeep until it's time to update. A blog on the other hand, needs to be updated constantly. This way you can always be aware of what is a priority.

Develop a schedule for each of your communications. A well planned direct mail campaign, for example will ensue higher donations then a hastily written letter.

Create a Master List
Post a master list of the various forms of communications you use on your wall/bulletin board, etc. This will help you be aware of the tools you use.
Communicating to your donors/clients is one of the most important things an organization or business can do. Having your ducks in a row makes all the difference.

How to Get Motivated to Write

Whether you are writing a direct mail piece or a newsletter, inspiration is always a tricky thing. As a writer, I've come across the dreaded writer's block numerous times. Sometimes it can be hard to be motivated to write; even if it's for your organization.
What works for me isn't necessarily going to work for you. Everyone has their own methods of getting motivated. However, I can provide you with some tips.

Brainstorm: This is a great way to get the ideas flowing. Grab a piece of paper, or better yet, a flip chart and start thinking of words that you want to use in your piece. Write down emotions you want to convey and reactions you want to receive. If you have a chance to bring in someone else, do so. Writing is never a solitary practice. Bring in your colleagues, your friends, even your family to help generate ideas and talk things over. Even if they don't know the topic, it's likely they may have an insight you've never thought of before.

Avoid Stress: The best writing happens when you are focused on it and not the million other things you have to do. Set aside time when you've got it and make sure you aren't disturbed. That includes email and phone calls. One little interruption can break your stream of consciousness.

Play Music: For me, the path to good writing lies in the music I play. Now this is going to differ for everyone. Some people like total silence when they write; I prefer to draw from the emotions of song and use it in my work. Figure out what works for you and stick with it.

Determine the Best Time of Day: My best writing occurs after 4pm. I'm definitely not a morning person and therefore my creative juices are more likely to stir in the afternoon and evening. Build your schedule around the writing time that works best for you.

Don't Plan, Just Write: Sometimes it's hard to get what you want on paper because you have set guidelines/plans in mind that you have to follow. For the first draft, I recommend just getting the words on the paper. It doesn't matter if it's perfect the first time or even what you are looking for; it will provide a jumping off point for future drafts.

Think About Who You Are Writing For: Who is this piece for? What do you imagine they want to hear from you? If it's a donor, maybe a story from a client or a success relating to your organization. Figure out the motivations of your audience and play to them.

Think About Whose Voice You Are Using: If you are an organization, what is your main message? Is it conveyed in this writing piece? If you are writing from a specific person, ask yourself if you are capturing their voice properly.

All of these things can help motivate you when you write and help create better copy. Good Luck!
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Newsletter Content

It can be difficult when you are putting together a newsletter to decide what content works and what doesn’t. It’s important to approach it from the mind of the donor. Think about what they want to read and what would inspire them to donate.

Here are a few tips:

1. Feature real people.
Facts and figures can only take you so far. Tell stories about your clients or better yet, let them have a voice of their own. And remember to include staff, board and volunteers.

2. Share your successes.
Don’t be afraid to share what you have accomplished. If you are proud of it, your donors should be too.

3. Be uplifting.
A newsletter has so much more impact when you focus on the positive. You can still highlight the need, but overall, position your newsletter in a positive way.

4. Keep it short.
Keep each article short and easy to read. Longe3r articles may disinterest some readers as well as clutter the page.

5. Make sure you have a soft ask.
What is a soft ask? A soft ask is when you don’t ask for a donation outright. The opposite is called a hard ask. An example of this is direct mail. In your newsletter, even though you aren’t asking for money outright, inspire so that people will donate anyway.

A newsletter is a great addition to a communications plan and will help continue your donors interest in the organization.

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What to Tweet?

Twitter is a great site that lets you post short blog posts (called Tweets) to inform your donors about what your organization is up to. It's less time consuming then a blog and very easy to do.

But what should you say?

Twitter can be limiting because you only have 140 characters in which to get your message across. It's a great tool to help your writing become more clear and concise.

Here are some examples of things you should Tweet:


If you are having an upcoming event, list it in Twitter. But don't post it the day before the event. Make a series of posts several weeks ahead, enticing people to come. Don't forget to list the date and time and link to a page on your website with more information.


Share the latest news on Twitter, even if you think it's small. Did one of your programs get more funding? Did a client meet with success? Sharing these stories will inspire your donors.


When you are using Twitter, don't think just about your current donors, but prospects as well. Give facts about your organization so people can learn more. Remember to use simple terminology that everyone can understand.


Do you have a news release on your website? A new article? Use Twitter to drive traffic to your site by posting links.

Don't forget to Tweet everyday to keep your site active. And post your Twitter link on your website, at the bottom of your email signature and more.

Charity websites lacking in donor engagement

I was reading the Village Vibes (the newsletter) and came across this fast fact, which I found interesting:

Fast Fact: Charity websites lacking in donor engagement January 26, 2009 A recent UK study analyzing the websites of 15 major charities found that, overall, while most were following best practices of usability and design, few were using techniques to create a loyal, online visitor community. The study looked at 26 different factors and gave each charity a final score based on their performance in each area. Average marks were high in communicating the charity’s key message (78%), containing fresh content (78%), and having an easy-to-use search function (100%). But overall, only three charities were able to score above 70% on the entire survey, and none of the charities surveyed sent follow-up e-mails to donors within 30 days of a donation. -- dotMailer

Here's a link to the full article:

I find this interesting because the main comment is not about the content or design, but rather the follow up procedure. When building your website it's important to think of everything from all angles. If you are having a donation page, how are you receiving those donations? And how are you following up with the customer?

This applies not only to websites, but all of your communication materials. After you write a blog post, do you just leave it and move on to the next project? Will you reply to comments on the blog? What if you have to moderate comments? How will you deal with someone who is not as kind?

It's important to keep every aspect of your communications in check or you risk looking less than stellar.

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