You are so excited because your nonprofit is getting ready to do some strategic planning and you think you might — finally! — get some real strategic direction for your communications plan.
Don’t hold your breath.
While it’s fabulous that many nonprofits are recognizing the value of strategic communications plans, the sad fact is that too many are satisfied with a buzzword bingo card strung into a few paragraphs.
Here are seven signs that your communications strategy isn’t actually strategic.
1. No mention of programmatic, advocacy, or fundraising goals. While you can certainly have communications goals in and of themselves, most of your communications work should be in service of larger mission-oriented or fundraising goals.
2. It says you will employ a “variety of strategies, objectives, and tactics,” but never elaborates on what those are. Which strategies? Which objectives? Which tactics? Real strategies choose.
3. It says you will serve your “communities” or “constituencies” but never elaborates on who those people are. Strategies need to get beyond “everyone” and the “general public” and get specific about who you are communicating with.
4. “Community engagement” is the goal without describing what engagement looks like in the context of your organization. Community engagement is a great goal, but it’s like saying you want to “be healthier.” What does it mean in the context of your organization and its mission? There are 100 ways to be healthier, and 100 ways to engage your community.
5. It says it you will make a brand promise and differentiate, but offers no details on what that promise is or exactly how you are different. Detecting a trend here? Once again, we need specifics!
6. No indication of what the Key Progress Indicators (KPIs) are. How will you know if you are making progress or not? If there’s no mention of measurements, you aren’t being strategic.
7. No realistic connection to staffing and budget resources. Let’s say your plan passes the test in #1-6. Here’s the kicker: Is there any discussion of appropriate staffing and budgeting to support the strategy? Without that info, it’s just a wish list.
Push your leaders to make the choices outlined here, and you’ll get the strategic direction you are seeking!