Who’s listening to your not-for-profit story?

browningyork Charity, Communication audiences, Engagement, Story-telling, Voluntary sector

I had lunch today with a friend who also works with not for profit organisations. As you might expect, the conversation was wide ranging, covering a variety of areas including funding challenges for the sector, the importance of the work that the sector does and the enjoyment we get from supporting voluntary organisations to manage themselves better to achieve better results. Something that we returned to several times over was the need for these organisations to have a clear story to tell and consistent language to tell it in.

It can be all too easy to believe that you are telling your organisational story and then to find that your target audiences don’t know it. Or don’t understand it. And this presents a problem for the effectiveness of your organisation. You need people to understand what you stand for and the difference you make in the world, so that they can choose to take action and support you.

In a world that is full of stories, you need yours to resonate and be heard by your target audiences. This bit is important: it’s all too easy to think that your story needs to cut through ALL noise and for EVERYONE to hear it. But that’s often not really the case. Instead, you need the people who can help you achieve your goals to engage with your story and take action accordingly.

Here are some groups you might want to hear your story and why – if you look at your organisation strategy, it should guide you in identifying which audiences you need to communicate with:
Staff – when they understand and engage with your story, they are your best advocates and will contribute as much as they can to achieving your organisational aims.

Volunteers – similar to your staff, your volunteers need to know what they are part of and feel motivated to keep giving their time and skills to deliver your mission. Potential volunteers may have many options available to them – your story needs to speak to them and inspire them to choose you.

Members – a good, engaging story helps to illustrate the value you are adding to your members. With budgets being squeezed, if they don’t understand what they’re part of and why, you may find their subscription is not renewed.

Supporters – there are many motivations for supporting a not for profit and your organisation’s story needs to tie in to the reasons your supporters have chosen you. This won’t be exactly the same for all, but there is likely to be a common thread.

Funders – a speaker at a conference I attended last year said, “Funders will only fund you if they trust you and they won’t trust you if they don’t know you”. This is a fantastic reason for ensuring your story is clear and resonates with the interests and concerns of funders in your field.

Local politicians – this group are concerned about the local communities they represent; if you are looking for connections with or actions from them, your story needs to demonstrate how you are making things better locally.

National politicians – to be clearly heard by politicians at a national level, your story must demonstrate broader appeal and a link with their motivations and concerns.

Which groups are you trying to tell your story to?

If you need help identifying your audiences and crafting your story, please get in touch.

Until next time