Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

January 14, 2008

Nonprofits need to communicate better

Nonprofits must work harder to tell their story.

Securing the resources they need to sustain themselves and make a difference in addressing social problems depends on truly engaging a broad range of constituents, including board, staff, volunteers, givers and partners, including government, business and other nonprofits.

And effective communications lies at the heart at the job of engaging all those constituents.

So nonprofits need to boil their story down to basics and learn how to tell it simply and clearly.

Nonprofits need to be able to measure their impact, and say how their work makes a difference in the lives of people and communities.

Nonprofits need to prepare their staff, board and other partners to champion their cause.

Nonprofits need to develop relations with the media, a powerful vehicle for reaching a broad audience.

Nonprofits need to become more effective advocates on public-policy issues that affect both the charitable marketplace and the clients nonprofits serve.

And nonprofits need to persuade institutional and individual givers to invest in helping them strengthen their ability to communicate.

The message of nonprofits, and the skill with which they communicate it, is critical to their mission.


  • At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is so true. I think many nonprofits become so accustomed to using the language of government, academia, and grantmakers, they mistakenly believe that the public will understand their work through this complex rhetoric. People won't readily invest in something that they don't easily understand. For many organizations, our message is our most important contribution to our constituents. That being said, we should make sure our messages are effective.

  • At 10:03 AM, Blogger Andrea S said…

    Foundations and philanthropists alike will also be impressed with nonprofits that can connect their programs to positive outcomes (changes in behavior and attitude), and not just positive outputs (e.g., more programs, more volunteers, etc). Choosing outcomes that measure the mission statement of the organization is crucial.
    The encouraging word here is that nonprofits are already starting to implement these measures and are seeing positive results (Nature Conservancy and Duke Children's Hospital to name a few). The up-front costs to implement data collection in areas that are mission-focused brings returns in the form of more committed volunteers, increased donations, and improved community impact. For more examples and ideas, see our whitepaper at



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