Part of developing a good marketing, communications, and fundraising program for your nonprofit involves some self-reflection. What are we doing well now, and what needs some work? Are we taking advantage of lessons learned by others by implementing "best practices" from both the nonprofit world as a whole and our own particular field?

When you perform a communications audit, you answer these and other questions. I often include an audit when I develop a marketing strategy for clients. But you can also conduct a do-it-yourself audit.

I created a form to help you do that, which you can download here. It's a simple doc file with a table.

Complete this form for each of your communications channels (e.g. website, newsletter, press releases, Facebook, event marketing, etc.). You can include both qualitative and quantitative judgments (whatever works best for you). Getting input from others – especially your audiences – via surveys or focus groups will improve the usefulness of the audit.

Here are the areas your audit should cover:

Primary Audience: Who are we hoping to reach through this channel?

Primary Uses: For what purpose are we communicating through this channel?

Frequency: How often are we communicating through this channel?

Content Mix: How do we vary the content? Is it user-focused? What are our primary messages in this channel? What are our calls to action?

Writing Style and Tone: What voice do we use in this channel? What's our personality? What's the overall tone and approach to the communications?

Writing Mechanics: Are we using good grammar and is the content free of typos? Is the length of the content appropriate for the channel?

Microcontent: Do we make our content skimmable with strong headlines and subheads, email subject lines, linked text, etc.?

Design: Is our layout simple and clean? Do we use consistent colors and typography?

Visuals: Do we use photos, infographics and/or video effectively?

Branding: Is this channel aligned with our overall brand?

Integration: Is this channel connected to other channels, and is the messaging in this channel integrated across other channels?

After you've completed the form for each channel, look at your communications as a whole, and answer these questions:

  • Do our communications present a unified brand to our supporters across channels?
  • Do our communications present consistent messages and calls to action to our supporters across channels?
  • What needs to change in the short-term (next three months) and in the long-term (within a year)?

I'm developing a Do-It-Yourself Nonprofit Communications Audit Kit that will give you more guidance on how to complete an audit, including best practices for email newsletters, Facebook, etc. to compare against what you are doing. It will be available in May 2011. Subscribe to my weekly e-newsletter and you'll be alerted when the kit is ready. I also perform audits for nonprofit clients who don't want to do it themselves.