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Seven Keys To Effective Nonprofit Communications During COVID-19

Seven Keys To Effective Nonprofit Communications During COVID-19

August 14, 2020
Karen Kemp

What a different world we must navigate during the current pandemic. There is so much uncertainty right now. 

Without a doubt, COVID-19 has changed the lives of all Americans. We see it every time we turn on the news. Twitter and other social media sites are full of stories, sometimes uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking. Families are learning to navigate the new normal, often trying to balance working from home with homeschooling. And nonprofits are wondering how to operate and communicate in a time of change and financial insecurity.

Now more than ever, it is essential that you communicate your message and mission to your stakeholders. While there is so much you can’t control during this crisis, there is one thing you can control: your story. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will; leaving others to fill in the blanks about what your organization is doing.

Your volunteers, staff and donors are still there, with the same commitment and love for your nonprofit. Here are seven strategies to help you communicate with your supporters during this time.

  1. Don’t stop communicating. Take control of your nonprofit’s story and make sure donors and volunteers know how you are responding to the crisis. We have a client who began sending videos bimonthly to all stakeholders. With sincerity and transparency, this CEO is informing donors and friends about the organization’s response to the crisis. The feedback and support is very positive. You don’t have to be a videographer to shoot video on your smartphone. Get creative and update your audience and share what you would have shared in person.
  2. Communicate with empathy. People are suffering right now, and it is important to show that you care about the impact this virus is having on your supporters. In all your communication, acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. Empathizing with your supporters and acknowledging your shared experience creates trust and builds receptivity to your message.
  3. Be helpful. This is the right time to share coronavirus-related information that may help your supporters. Focus your energy on genuinely helping your audience.  
  4. Harness the power of social media. With most of us at home right now, web-browsing has hit an all-time high. Your audience is more available than ever. Review your social media posts to ensure that your message is appropriate and sensitive to our current situation. If you have helpful coronavirus tips to share, by all means do so. Be strategic with the frequency and content of your posts. Create a calendar, and don’t try to include too many messages in a single post or email.
  5. Pick up the phone. Now is the time to get personal with your communications. Make it a priority to reach out to board members, major donors and special friends of your organization with a brief phone call. It’s important for your supporters to know that you care about them. Ask how they are and share your concern about how they are weathering this crisis.  
  6.  Lead with your mission. Whether you are writing an appeal, calling donors or creating social media content, make sure to have a clear focus and be concise. Always keep your mission top of mind. When your communication mirrors your mission, your supporters are more likely to stay engaged.
  7.  If you have a need, ask. Many nonprofits are on the frontlines of this pandemic and have unique needs related to the virus. Your appeals should include an uplifting message of thanks as well as how your organization is addressing the pandemic. Many of us are looking for ways to help out during this crisis. It is appropriate to let people know how they can support your organization. Ask for what you need. Remember that your donors support you because they care deeply about what you do. Making a donation, either financially or otherwise, will make your donors feel that they are making a difference.

Your nonprofit has a unique opportunity to communicate with donors, board members, volunteers and other stakeholders during the time of COVID-19. Without a doubt, people will remember your helpfulness and transparency long after this crisis has passed. During this pandemic, many of us are looking for ways to find meaning and purpose by being a part of a bigger cause. Now is the time to offer your donors and friends the opportunity to make an impact. Get out there and tell your story with empathy and kindness!


Karen Kemp

Karen has more than 20 years of experience as a fundraising and nonprofit professional. She served for 10 years as director of development at Darton State College, where she managed the Darton Foundation and led its first-ever capital campaign. She has also served as executive director of four nonprofits in the health, arts and human services fields; in these roles, she managed annual campaigns, capital campaigns, planned giving, board development, special events and communications. Karen is active in community affairs and serves on the state board of the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault. She graduated from Leadership Albany and has served as state public affairs chair for the Junior Leagues of Georgia. She serves on the board of Family Literacy Connection and is a volunteer with the Atlanta Chapter of the March of Dimes. A former Rotary president, she was recognized with a Martin Luther King Dream Award for her work on behalf of Georgia’s children and their families. Karen attended the University of Georgia and graduated from Georgia State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Karen’s favorite quote: “Joy is found through living a life of purpose.”