Communicating During COVID-19: What Nonprofits Need to Know

By May 5, 2020Nonprofit

During the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many nonprofits halted their communications activities. Many were uncertain if they should continue their usual activities. Would it be misconstrued if they sent out a fundraising campaign? What about the quarterly magazine—should it be put on hold? Would it seem in poor taste to send press releases out to the local papers about recent activities in the community?

These are great questions, and no two nonprofits will answer them the same. What remains consistent during this time of uncertainty is the knowledge that constituents both want and need to hear from their favorite nonprofits.

It’s easy to let communications slide when there’s so much to manage right now. Transitioning everyone to remote work, figuring out how to continue providing services to the public during social distancing, are all pressing needs. But communications must be part of the immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis, or you run the risk of becoming invisible.

Stay Connected

If your organization doesn’t have a marketing or communications manager, appoint someone to take on the task during the pandemic. It’s essential to have a consistent and meaningful communications strategy. Discuss among crucial team members what messages you believe the public needs to hear during this time, and then develop a strategy and outreach program to share those messages.

Connect with key internal and external stakeholders:

  • Employees and volunteers: Use instant messenger, email, video conferencing, and phone calls to stay in touch. Make sure that your teams feel connected even though everyone works from home.
  • Donors and supporters: Send periodic messages to donors and supporters assuring them that your organization continues its work during the pandemic: update blog posts, social media, and other channels.

Tips for Sharing Information

During times of crisis, it’s essential to remain calm and focused. A sound communications strategy should be:

  • Focused: Stay on message. Don’t rush messages out without ensuring that they are accurate and verifiable.
  • Transparent: Keep key internal stakeholders updated on the messaging strategy and ensure they’ve reviewed messages before they go out. They may have advice or feedback to improve messages.
  • Multichannel: Don’t rely on one channel, such as email. Utilize all of the communications channels at your disposal, including social media, blogs, and snail-mail, if appropriate.

Tell People What You Are Doing Now to Help

Supporters of your organization want to know how you’re continuing to offer services during this time of crisis. Consider the many ways in which your organization is helping during the COVID-19 pandemic. These may be direct help (such as donating supplies to first-response workers) or they may be indirect help (such as working from home).

A few ways in which your organization may be helping to combat the COVID-19 epidemic:

  • Keeping employees and volunteers safe by asking everyone to work from home
  • Ensuring all employees keep their benefits even if you have to cut back on pay
  • Maintaining sanitary and clean conditions in offices and other spaces
  • Offering online resources, programs, and other virtual services
  • Other facts unique to your organization

Remember, share only what is relevant, verifiable, and factual. Avoid speculation and wishful thinking and stick to specifics.

During the COVID-19 epidemic, remaining silent or hesitating to communicate means losing valuable supporters. People do want to hear good news now. They want to know that their favorite nonprofits are still active and supporting the work that’s meaningful to them. For your good, and the good of others, communicate now with precision, accuracy, and thoughtfulness, and remain top of mind among your supporters.

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.