TIPS FOR NONPROFITS WHEN COMMUNICATING WITH BUSINESSES AND PARTNERS
Texan by Nature exists to bring conservation and business together. We believe in a collaborative model that pushes impact boundaries for our natural resources, people, and economic growth. As we collaborate with conservation, civic, education, individual, and industry leaders across the state, clear communication is a critical part of achieving our goals and delivering upon our mission.
Over the past few months, the way we communicate with each other shifted completely, changing the way we interact with our co-workers, constituents, partners, and everyone in the professional sphere. In-person meetings in offices and coffee shops turned into phone calls and virtual video conferences where everyone resides in their own rectangle on the screen. During these difficult times it is amazing how, despite the space that is between us, technology enables us to stay more connected than ever.
For all leaders, successful outcomes rely on building strong, resilient relationships. For nonprofits, funders are added to the relationship list. Nonprofits must continue working in pursuit of their mission, requiring thorough communication and funding solicitation, regardless of the turmoil in the world. To ensure continued growth, organizations must adapt and ensure effective communication, hopefully moving relationships to deeper collaboration.
Here are some tips and tricks to ensure you are communicating effectively with businesses and partners in a virtual world.
Note: Begin your communication with awareness – remember that many people you are meeting with are working from home, dealing with difficult circumstances due to current events, balancing their work/life schedule, teaching their children from home, and more. There are many communication tools that you can utilize to make sure that you and the person you are meeting with comes into the meeting prepared and get the most out of the meeting.
Before You Get Started:
- Ensure your organization has clear messaging on your website that outlines exactly why you exist – who you are, what you do, and how you do it. This will ensure that businesses and partners visiting your website understand why your organization is important.
- Answer these questions: Why is supporting your mission important? How are you creating change? What is your impact?
Securing an Appropriate Contact:
- Why are you trying to contact a particular business or partner? Answering this question will help you identify the right point of contact. If you are pursuing a new relationship and don’t have a contact, a good place to start looking for email addresses is “Staff”, “About Us”, or “Press/News” pages.
- Oftentimes it can be difficult to find email addresses on certain websites. A trick you can use is going to the “Press/News” and reviewing some of the press releases. There is usually a marketing or public relations contact listed on the bottom of every press release.
- Utilize the “Contact Us” page. Usually, there will be a general contact webpage where you can fill out a form or email a general email address. When sending general emails, use the tips below in Securing the Meeting and outline exactly who you want to get in touch with.
- Call their general office phone number and see if you can be connected with the appropriate contact. Tell the person that answers who you are, what you do, and why you are looking to connect with someone.
- If all else fails, utilize LinkedIn. Search the company name and/or certain staff names that are listed on the website. Connect with new contacts and make sure you add a note so they know exactly why you are wanting to connect!
Securing the Meeting:
- When writing a subject line, be clear and concise, giving the reader a good idea of what the email pertains to and how urgent the matter may be. A good subject line will be easy to search for in the future.
- When writing your emails, include enough information for appropriate context, but try to be as clear and concise as possible. Divide the email into logical sections.
- Always keep in mind that the reader may only have time to skim. Put important things in bold and consider using bullet points.
- Always be 100% direct and clear about what you need, from whom, by when.
- How does your mission align with the mission of who you are reaching out to? Include that!
- Please remember that all emails are a representation of the organization. Any message can be forwarded. Check for grammar, spelling, etc.
- Be persistent and send follow-up emails every week, two weeks, month, or more depending on your request. Experts suggest it takes between seven and 12 touch points (emails, calls, letters, etc.) for a donor to make the decision to support a nonprofit organization.
Setting up the Meeting:
- Set the stage with a calendar invite that includes the agenda in the body of the invite, not as a separate attachment. This will give the meeting participants an overview of what you will discuss before the meeting.
- Include the call-in number or video conference link in the location line of the invite for easy connecting from mobile devices.
- If there are multiple attachments needed for the meeting, consolidate them into one attachment so meeting participants will only have to pull up one document to refer to during the meeting.
- Invite only those that need to be in the meeting, the most productive meetings only contain five-eight people.
Right Before/During the Meeting:
- Be on the call/video at least 3 minutes in advance. This will ensure that you are the first person on the call/video and are ready to greet meeting participants when they join.
- Start fresh: ask people how they are doing. Build a friendly and professional rapport!
- Give an overview of what the purpose of the call is, and address any questions before proceeding to the agenda.
- Capture thoughts and actions as the meeting occurs by taking notes while actively listening.
- Try not to react to questions during the meeting by immediately sending additional files or information without thinking through what is needed. This creates a distraction and may derail the conversation.
- Ask questions! Reference their work and how it aligns with your organization’s.
- Emphasize the impact of your organization.
- Follow up with notes, thoughts, files, and action items within 24 hours.
- Try not to send multiple emails post-meeting – summarize in one note if possible.
There are many tips, tricks, and techniques you can utilize when it comes to communicating effectively. We hope this will help you update your communication strategy, resulting in lasting, deeper relationships that amplify your organization’s mission.