Written By Katie Todd YNPN Board Chair
“Er – hello? I mean, hello. It’s nice to see you again. Yeah, you look great. Has it really been that long? So, here’s what our organization has been up to the last six months…”
Sound familiar? Despite all of our best efforts to keep in touch with our members, we can slip in our communications from time to time. And, as we know, time keeps marching on. One month can quickly turn into six as we craft our next membership newsletter, appeal, or annual report. If we have let too much time elapse in communicating with our donors, volunteers, and general supporters, what is the best way to re-open that line without coming off as needy or disingenuous?
Admit that it has been too long. Honesty is the best policy, right? Re-opening the dialogue by admitting that you (the organization) have not kept up your end in the communications bargain may be one of the best ways to get the conversation rolling. This will allow your members to feel absolved of any fault on their end in not keeping up to date with what your organization is doing.
Paint the story of the last “X” months. Since you have not been communicating regularly with your members, what have you been doing? Don’t feel that you need to get into every nook and cranny detail, but tell the organization’s story on how it has been working to achieve its mission. How did the nonprofit steward its funding over the last few months? What new initiatives have unfolded? Has there been major organizational shifts in terms of staffing or projects? Providing an update through a narrative or a few bullet points will allow your members to quickly catch back up and begin to feel re-connected with a cause they champion.
Don’t ask for money right away. Including a direct ask after months of silence seems a bit tacky, right? It’s like that cousin who comes knocking at your door, whom you haven’t seen since childhood, asking for a couch to crash on and then ends up eating all of your chips and dip while watching re-runs of MTV’s Cribs. Don’t be that cousin. You need to re-establish your reputation with your members as an organization that cares about its members. Making a fundraising appeal after time apart will likely turn off many supporters – no one wants to feel used. This is the communication to honor your members and what that have given to the organization in terms of money, time, and support of the years.
Schedule your next three communications. Once you’ve re-opened that door, you cannot allow to close it again. Stick the holder in the base by scheduling out your next two to three member communications. Whether it is through email, direct mail, or telephone, put it on the calendar and build out any necessary timelines for content creation and review. Communication experts note that organizations should be communicating with their members no less than monthly. Most nonprofits, especially those involved in online advocacy, are reaching out their bases three to four times a month. Interested to know what other nonprofits in your sector are doing? Check out the 2015 M+R Benchmark Reports to get some insights.
Need some more guidance on enhancing your membership communications plans and pieces? Here are some of my recommendations: