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Read this if you don’t have enough resources in your charity’s communications team

19 November 2010

Reduce your communications activity by a quarter, says Jim Raymond, Operations Director of Convio

Ok, that should be everyone reading this blog, especially in this time of big society and small budgets! Listening to the questions and talks at the recent CharityComms Digital Communications on a Shoestring conference, I was struck by the number of amazing people in our charities who are juggling an impossible range of communications channels often on a voluntary or part time basis – literally one or two days a week.

Communications overload 

Even charities with full-time communications teams are looking at other departments such as fundraising or service delivery and saying: "How can we get our boards and trustees to take communications as seriously as those teams and put their money where their mouth is?"

It really got me thinking how unsustainable it is to ask so much of people who have vision and passion for their cause but not necessarily the skills or experience to help their charity invest more in their communications activities. And we all intuitively know that communications are a critical part of any successful charity’s future.

So if that’s you and you are suffering from communications overload and fatigue, I thought I would explore over three blogs the three things you can do to take control and help your charity confidently invest in communications.

Prioritise and do more with less

Communications channels and activities seem to proliferate over time as charities are much better at starting new things than sustaining them or stopping them.Nature has a very good solution to this problem in the seasonal cycle, where only the strongest plants and animals survive through the winter to live on into the next year.

So a very simple first step to take control of your communications activity is to undertake your own winter season. Take an hour or two out of your diary and meet with one or two other people in your charity who are also involved with your charity communications in some form.Together, simply write a bulleted list of every touch point or communication that your fundraising, communication, marketing or service delivery teams send out to your audiences. It doesn’t have to be 100% complete, just go as far as you can and cover all your different channels including print, email, web, social media, face to face, telephone and service delivery.

As well as showing you how much you are trying to do on such an unfeasibly limited budget, (which usually makes people feel better straightaway), it provides a good starting point to ask the question – what would actually happen if we stopped doing each communication? Also, you can try putting the list in priority order of which communications have most impact.

Equipped with that list, resolve to reduce the communications activity you are doing by somewhere between a quarter and a third. It’s actually quite easy to do. Here are some pointers:

  • If you have several email newsletters going out, consolidate them into one single list with a maximum of three very well-written articles once a month. In some cases, simply tell the mailing list that there won’t be another email newsletter in the next three or six months and tell them when to expect the next one.
  • Reduce the frequency or stop sending out printed communications altogether for a period of time and ask people to subscribe to your email communications instead.
  • Recruit a volunteer to manage your Facebook group.
  • Find a colleague from another department who is more effective at Tweeting than you are to manage your Twitter feed.
  • My favourite is to arbitrarily decline every third meeting request in Outlook and instead book that time into your diary to do some important tasks such as writing a business plan for scaling up communications activity!

In short, take control and only continue to do the two thirds of your communications which are achieving results. Stop doing the third which were nice ideas but no longer make sense. Be tough with yourself.All of this is designed to make room in your precious time for reflection and long term thinking, which is the second part of this three part blog which I will pick up next time.

Jim Raymond

operations director, Convio

Convio is a leading provider of integrated marketing software and services for charities in the UK.