Savvy Communications for Serious Results

October 19, 2015

All of us—regardless of profession, sector, or circumstance—have experienced the power of storytelling. And many of us have been compelled to action for causes and organizations because of stories that resonated on an emotional level.

Last year our storytelling initiative, Stories Worth Telling, challenged the assumption that large ad budgets, a huge PR team, or expensive viral videos—tools that most nonprofits don’t have—are the secret sauce to effective communications. We believe that nonprofits can use creative strategies and tactics to leverage limited communications resources into outsized outcomes—raising more money, recruiting more volunteers, swaying policymakers, and doing more good.

That’s why the Meyer Foundation launched a communications training program as part of our Children and Family Capacity Building Initiative. We’re partnering with the SPIN Academy, a nonprofit that for 17 years has trained public interest organizations throughout the U.S. to use communications to achieve social change.

A small group of CFCBI grantees are attending a series of in-person workshops at our office with some of the brightest minds in public interest communications. Training topics include strategy, branding, storytelling and messaging. Participants are learning how to get their messages out through press coverage, social media, op-eds, speeches, and direct one-to-one communications. Each participating organization is also partnered with a communications coach, who will provide tailored, hands-on support to apply the ideas from the training.

At the program kickoff, SPIN Academy trainers made a compelling case against many common communications pitfalls, noting that nonprofits need to avoid the mistake of crafting their messages in a way that appeals to internal audiences like board leadership (or even funders), but don’t effectively engage people who aren’t yet involved in mission-driven, community-building work. As nonprofits throughout the region navigate a shifting fundraising landscape and work to engage new donors, they often struggle to translate the value of their work to broader audiences. Smart communications becomes a vital skill to engage new supporters, and cultivate and steward relationships with donors and decision-makers alike.

As the program progresses, we’ll share more tips and tools. Attracting attention  doesn’t necessarily require big budgets and bright lights—smart strategy and focused effort can be just as effective. We’re looking forward to sharing the successes of SPIN Academy participants. Stay tuned.

Rick Moyers (@rick_moyers) is vice president for programs and communications at the Meyer Foundation.