1. Improve your copywriting. Ban all “nonprofit speak” from your copy. Make your copywriting persuasive. Take a writing course. Challenge yourself to write from fresh angles. Before you publish anything, read it over and ask yourself “do I really care?” Sharp copywriting is best tool anyone working in PR can have.
2. Start taking social media seriously. If there’s anything we’ve learned in the last few years, it’s that social media is fundamentally changing the way donors, supporters and friends relate to causes they care about. Educate your board on social media. Empower one (carefully chosen) person in your organization to handle social media. Then let them run with it.
3. Start engaging people online. Stop blast-tweeting pre-scheduled Twitter and Facebook updates, news releases and bits of your mission statement. Learn how to use social media and email marketing to engage, have conversations and listen to your donors.
4. Stop telling your story. Donors don’t care about you. They care about what they can through you. Stop focusing on yourself and start telling stories of the people benefiting from the help you offer, your volunteers, your donors and other people connected to your work.
5. Target all communications. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many nonprofits still use “spray-and-pray” marketing. Know your audience. Then treat them the way they want to be treated, and target all interaction with them.
6. Communicate with donors the way they want to be treated. The best thing you can do for the growth of your organization is to communicate with donors and stakeholders on their terms. Start the new year with a survey on how they want to talk to you, and how they want you to communicate with them.
7. Don’t just copy your communications strategy from last year. Evaluate your previous efforts and find ways to improve in the new year. Work benchmarks into your communications plan to help you measure success.
8. Use fresh language. Cleanse your writing of nonprofit drivel. See #1.
9. Integrate your communications. Direct mail, newsletters, online, social media, advertising, media outreach — it all needs to work together. Don’t treat your different communications channels as separate.
10. Start measuring web metrics. If you don’t already, start measuring traffic and behaviour on your website and social media. Then, learn from the data and improve your online efforts.
11. Make online giving easy and accessible. Donating on your website should be as easy and unencumbered as buying a song on iTunes. The fewer clicks and steps, the better.
12. Stop copying from your peers. But learn from them.
13. Look for a communications intern. If you work in nonprofit PR, chances are you’re a one-person shop. Interns can bring fresh perspective to your work, be a sounding board for new ideas and help you execute big projects. Plus, you get to inspire someone to use their passion for storytelling for good.
14. Say “thank you.” And again. And then some more. You can never thank your donors enough. Come up with fresh ways to thank supporters for their investment in your cause.
15. Communicate more with your donors. Yes, studies show that charities and organizations who over-communicate turn donors off. Chances are, the small nonprofit doesn’t fall into this category. See #6.
16. Re-purpose content & media coverage for different communications channels.
17. Learn how to talk to media about fundraising costs. If the past years were any indication, scrutiny on charitable spending will only increase in years to come. Since there are no real charity beat reporters, it’s your job to help the media understand the importance of fundraising in achieving your mission. Come up with a good plan to do so.
18. Reach out to media. Start investing in media relations, getting to know reporters and reaching out to editors. Remember, just because you do “good work” doesn’t mean the media will just cover you automatically.
19. Start a twitter list of reporters & media relevant to your cause. Then scan that list regularly and get to know what kind of stories those reporters/news outlets like to write about. This will help you reach out to them when pitching a story.
20. Never stop learning. The field of PR and communications is ever changing. Like Steve Jobs once said: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” Invest in yourself through professional development, workshops and courses — and never start thinking that you’ve learned enough.