Improving Communication for Non-Profits

Non-profit summit South Lake Union is known as a home base for biotech, online retailers and global health. It also is home to over 40 non-profits—both large and small. Approximately 70 representatives from these organizations recently met for a networking forum, which provided an opportunity for the more established non-profits to share best practices and experiences with those that have fewer resources.

"I really enjoyed the information that was shared and I enjoyed the structure of the event," said Cyrus Khambatta, artistic director of Khambatta Dance Company. "I felt like I got to know the community of non-profits in South Lake Union."

The Improving Communication forum was delivered through an interactive peer-to-peer learning environment—as opposed to a formal structure of a speaker addressing the audience. Each table had a particular subject matter, guided by a non-profit expert. After the brainstorming session, a representative from each table reported their discussion to the entire group. Attendees agreed that the format created a supportive environment in which organizations could problem solve as a group and individuals could gather information that was tailor fit for their situation.

For those who were unable to attend the forum, the highlights from each table group follows:

Your Road Map: Crafting a Simple Communications Plan. Define the audience that you want to communicate to and identify tactics to use to reach that audience. Make a plan on who will do what and assign deadlines for that work.

Hyper Local: Delivering Your Message to a Highly Focused Audience. Start local when promoting; and remember the importance of person to person marketing.

Business and Underwriting Support: Communicating Support Opportunities to Your Audience. Craft a good elevator speech to define your organization and its mission.

Storytelling: Delivering Your Message in 30 Seconds. Tell a human-interest story—don’t just report the facts. Use every medium—written, video, audio and distribute items that are done for you. (for instance, when you are mentioned in the media)

Social Media: Simple Social Media Strategies Engage Your Audience. Develop a social media strategy to build the brand; and develop a social media policy. Focus on person to person connections.

Your Communication Toolbox: Tools for Presenting Your Organization Professionally. Prepare a toolkit that contains branded letterhead, annual report and hand outs.

Identifying Skilled Volunteers: They're out there, but where? Write a job description for each volunteer role; remember to thank volunteers.

Moderator Lee Schoentrup, Director of Communications at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute and also a Communications Instructor at UW Extension, left the group with some suggestions for future thought.

  • Always present your organization in a professional manner
  • Maintain consistent messaging and branding
  • Know your audience
  • Have a plan, stick to it, evaluate it, measure it, adjust it
  • Manage expectations—be realistic about possibilities
  • Be prepared—practice prior to speaking opportunities

Non-profit summit

The SLU Non-Profit Network was founded by Mike McQuaid and Pearl Leung, both of whom also serve as South Lake Union Community Council Board Members. To receive the latest information and to continue the conversation, join the SLU Non-Profit Network Facebook group.

Jackie Durbin, Director of Marketing & Communications at MOHAI, shares information with the attendees as Cyrus Khambatta, of Khambatta Dance Company, looks on.

Photos by Lifestring Photography