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6 Ways to Communicate Better in 2021

Posted by on January 6th, 2021
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Messaging   

You can put the best practices of branding and communications into place without a lot of hullaballoo, and see some great results right away.

Like the new year’s resolutions you may have made, employing best branding practices sometimes just comes down to reminding yourself of the common-sense good habits you already know, but haven’t yet committed to.

Ask yourself how many of the things on this list you can (finally!) commit to doing – or doing better – this year.

1. Get jargon out of your communications.

Jargon acts as a barrier between your brand and those you want to attract. When your audiences don’t know what you’re talking about, they feel left out. They probably won’t ask for clarification—they’ll just disengage. So make a list of those jargon words and phrases you and your colleagues throw around, and throw them out instead. Now replace them with nice, clear, on-brand language that sounds more like how real people talk. Not sure what jargon might be betting in your way of connecting? Ask a friend who doesn’t work in your field to review your website, social media posts or a print publication and point out the jargon she sees.

2. Use active, not passive, verbs to engage people.

Active verbs engage the reader. Passive verbs put them to sleep. Compare these two sentences and ask yourself which is more interesting:

This year, a new housing program will be implemented by our organization.

This year, our new housing program will engage hundreds of people who need our services.

The first sentence is passive; the second is active.

3. Be consistent with your visual identity across all of your communications.

Your logo is not your brand, but your logo and surrounding visual identity send signals about you that act like invitations. Keeping your visual identity consistent makes your organization feel more warm, familiar, trustworthy, and professional. There’s no need to create a new version of your logo for a special project, or to change the look and feel of your newsletter as a way to look “fresh.” Choose your visual cues carefully to reflect your brand values, and then stick with them in all print and digital communications.

If lots of people create communications for your organization it’s smart to provide them with the tools and rules for doing it well. We leave each of our clients with a robust brand book that includes instructions for living their brand and visual identity fully. It also serves as a wonderful onboarding tool for new staff, board members, and other volunteers.

4. Always explain the WHY of what your organization does.

Your audiences don’t yearn for information; they yearn for connection. They want to understand the problems that exist as you see them, so they can be part of helping you solve them. Note the difference between these two statements. Which does a better job explaining WHY your work is needed and WHY you can’t do it without your donors?

Last year we delivered 23,000 meals to over a thousand families.

Last year you helped ensure that more parents could focus on finding meaningful work, rather than struggling to put food on the table that night, by helping us serve 23,000 meals.

5. Use the word “You” whenever possible.

Speaking directly to your reader (or conversation partner) engages her in the conversation and compels her to take action.

Donations are needed. The Raging Waters Foundation will build two new units with the money we raise from this campaign.

With your support, the Raging Waters Foundation will build two new units. Your gift makes a difference.

Try starting every email you send with the word “You” instead of the word “I.” You’ll find that your message is much stronger because it’s about the reader, not about the writer.

6. Always consider your audience.

Who are your target audiences and how do you communicate to them? Tailor brand-centered communications to meet them where they are. This is especially true when posting content to social media platforms. Not all members of your audience use social media in the same way; rather than speaking to all of your audiences in a given post, speak directly to those who are most active on that platform. For example, your donors 50 and older are more likely to be on Facebook, while your younger supporters may live on TikTok. Make sure your message matches your audience, and where you meet up with them.

It’s a new year. Make a resolution now to employ communication best practices to strengthen your brand and connection with your audience.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.

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