It has become common knowledge all nonprofits need to invest in communications. At the very minimum, they need to have a website and some messaging. Steps above that may include social media, traditional media relations, branding, e-mail marketing, and much more. But many of these investments are made as a big, one-time investment (i.e. “We need a new website” or “we need a social media strategy”). But the reality is that these investments mean nothing if not paired with ongoing funding.
Just like a realtor handing you the keys to your new house, your investment in communications doesn’t end when the site goes live or a strategy is handed to you by a consultant. For a house, you still need to clean the gutters, repaint the exterior, and pray that you don’t need to replace the roof anytime soon. And communications is no different.
One of the best examples of this is in a nonprofit’s website, partly because the rate of change in the web is so extraordinarily fast, but also because your nonprofit is also constantly creating new content, such as events, photos, donation appeals, etc. This content needs to be organized and shared. So even though your nonprofit is creating content, you need a way to organize it, turn it into stories, and communicate it creatively and concisely. And that takes commitment.
For example, if you are a nonprofit employee fighting for funds for your website, a commitment to communications means you need to include line items for maintenance and content creation. Your budget is only $10k? Then tell the person who is creating your site that $8k of that is for the website, and $1k is for maintenance for the next year. And then use the last $1k to make the copy and photos on your website as good as they can be.
One of my friends, Ernesto said it best:
Communications is not a one-time fee. Communications is a commitment by your organization to tell your story well, which requires long-term funding and support from the entire organization. Only when you make that commitment, can your nonprofit and its communications live happily ever after.