Power of communications during a crisis

Power of communications during a crisis

Posted on November 04, 2013 by Roxanne Joffe, MagnifyGood

Communications is central to the work of "doing good." We see it every day when donors give because of stories that touch their hearts. Leaders couldn't work toward mission goals and social-good teams couldn't make programs a reality without it.

When it comes to a crisis, communications is the glue that holds everything together.

Following the clawback of Ponzi scheme funds donated to local nonprofits in our region, we're not only seeing communications strategy become the glue, it's also creating pathways for each organization to recover from this unanticipated crisis.

Through our work with The Patterson Foundation, which will match up to 50 percent of what each nonprofit owes in the clawback, our goal was to help each nonprofit communicate the impact of the clawback on their organization and share the reasons why The Patterson Foundation chose to do a 1:1 match.

The four organizations, Jewish Family and Children Service Sarasota-Manatee, Girls Inc., Sarasota Opera, and the Diocese of Venice in Florida were all impacted differently. The services they provide to the community vary greatly, and so did their response strategies.

With this in mind, we developed our talking points around the matching campaign and positioned the clawback example similarly to a financial disaster.

1) This isn’t a traditional matching campaign – it is an emergency response effort. Harnessing the power of Sarasota's generous philanthropic community. The Patterson Foundation is helping these organizations through the recovery period.

2) This matching campaign is a testament to the strength and heart of the Sarasota philanthropic community. It highlights the incredible value of the services provided by the affected nonprofits and their importance to our community.

The message was positive. It reminded stakeholders that the clawback wasn’t over, and that these nonprofits were victims of something they could not forecast or prepare for.

A well-crafted message needs a communication strategy to ensure consistency and reach.

The Bull's Eye

The Bull's Eye represents stages of communication. Who needs to know, and when do they need to know? The nonprofit's leadership team is the center, innermost circle. This may include the board depending on the board structure.

The nonprofit's key staff is the second ring. The third is the volunteer base and the fourth is the donor base.

We hosted communications alignment meetings to discuss implementing the Bull's Eye strategy. By the time the matching challenge hit the press, all key stakeholders were informed and equipped to share the message. 

Engage the Leadership Team

In a partnership, especially a matching campaign, it is important to engage high-level leadership first, so that they can lead their organization with the partnership as a priority.

The Patterson Foundation and MagnifyGood began by interviewing every executive director to understand the impact of the clawback and used this information to formulate the message.

Leaders were then continuously engaged throughout the process to keep the partnership a high priority.

Provide Tools and Resources

Different organizations have different capacities. As a firm, it's our philosophy to understand partners and what they can bring to the table and where they need support.

To uplift organizations without large communications teams, MagnifyGood provided social media training and effective fundraising strategies to assist with the match campaign efforts.

Our partners stayed on message and shared about the opportunity successfully. Each is moving at its own pace to meet fundraising goals.

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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