Hard-pressed charity staff and volunteers don’t always see formal communications as a priority. Yet a well-executed internal communications strategy could be a vital factor in engaging and resourcing a workforce to give its best.
People often fear that saying yes to an internal comms (IC) request will be the thin end of the wedge, launching them into a daunting series of reporting commitments with little in it for them. A line manager you’ve never met in an office hundreds of miles from head office might resent having to implement your new weekly team briefing system; charity shop volunteers may avoid adding intranet reports (either reading or contributing them) to their workload.
The task is to demonstrate to colleagues — both in head office and beyond — that engaging with internal comms can help them to be more effective in their work, and will benefit the cause.
In response to the common complaints of “I don’t see the point” or “I don’t have time” — to read the chief executive’s weekly bulletin, conduct team briefings, whatever it may be — there are key points to make:
- Everyone has to communicate with their co-workers at some level. IC channels — whether intranet pages, newsletter offerings, emails, briefings or meetings/virtual meetings — help you communicate more effectively and easily.
- Being better informed about the work of your charity — and sharing information and ideas with others — allows you to progress more effectively in your work.
- Keeping up to date with your organisation’s vision, impacts and priorities makes you a great ambassador for the charity.
- IC channels can allow you to make your voice heard and influence direction and culture.
- The stories you share help you get recognition for the things you and your office, club, retail outlet or local group achieve.
- Communications systems save you time, giving you ready-made media for your own news and a rich resource to draw on for many kinds of work.
No news is bad news
Poor communication creates problems. You might need occasionally to remind reluctant (or even obstructive) line managers of this. The fall-outs from poor communication range from minor to major: a charity shop volunteer, unaware of key organisational values, gives the ‘wrong’ response to a customer’s query; an unbriefed press officer struggles to handle a journalist’s enquiry about the closure of a regional office. Where charities are working in conflict zones or dealing with health emergencies, the failure to disseminate a message, or the inability of an employee to make their voice heard at a critical time, can spell disaster.
Staff and volunteers operating in far-flung locations and contexts cannot do their best to help your charity meet its goals if they are not kept abreast of the organisation’s overall mission and strategic priorities, and of local, regional and central developments. Similar problems apply where people have few opportunities to raise concerns or influence policy or practice. An engagement with organisational issues affects not only an individual’s approach to their work, but their sense of interest in and belonging to your charity.
Strong communication creates strong charities
Honest, effective communication demonstrates that people count enough to be informed of developments — and also to be listened to, and to influence decisions where appropriate.
A substantial body of research now supports the view that better communication means a more highly-motivated and successful workforce. The correlation is noted by respected consultancies and individual research experts alike, in reports for government, public and private bodies.
Your aim is to arrive at a place where staff and volunteers all over your organisation are experiencing the benefits of robust internal communications for themselves.
This article is an extract from HQ and beyond, CharityComms’ guide to effective internal communication for charities with branches, regions or local groups. Download your free copy.