Launching a successful nonprofit communications campaign
To spread the word about a new initiative or build awareness around your mission-driven work, effective communication with your audiences is key. This is where a communications campaign can come in handy. But managing a campaign’s moving pieces can be challenging.
To set your next campaign up for success, we are breaking up the process of building a campaign into five simple steps. Here we also share the key components of each phase and best practices for streamlining your efforts.
Step 1: Set objectives and goals
Start by outlining your campaign’s strategic purpose and objectives. Next, define your goals by considering how you’ll track, measure, and evaluate its performance. Examples of campaign objectives and goals include:
- Building awareness of your nonprofit by increasing new website visitors by 20% in six months.
- Expanding reach by confirming 50 partners for a new initiative in 90 days.
Be sure to make your campaign’s goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals). That way, you can easily determine if your campaign was successful and identify ways to improve in the future.
Step 2: Define your audience
Understanding your audience can make or break your communications campaign’s success. The audience should set the tone for your campaign, including the messaging and content creation. Do your research on your target audience, including:
- Needs, motivations, characteristics, and pain points.
- Types of advertisements, topics, and content they respond to.
- Where they look for information online, such as the media outlets, thought leaders, or social media accounts they follow.
To uncover insights on your audience, consider conducting surveys with your current supporters; analyzing your nonprofit’s email, website, and social media data; or using free tools, like Google Trends. Use this information to take an audience-first approach to building out the rest of your campaign.
Step 3: Create messaging and identify channels for outreach
Equipped with key insights on your audience, you can begin crafting messaging and decide which channels you will use to communicate it. When creating messaging for your communications campaign, consider this simple framework:
1. Define the problem. Start by creating a statement that highlights the challenge your organization aims to solve (and why your audience should care).
2. Outline the solution. Add to the story by explaining your organization’s unique solution for addressing the problem, including how your nonprofit’s work will drive impact.
3. Explain the next steps. Seek to round out your campaign’s messaging by giving your audience a clear call to action to get involved or learn more.
Equipped with solid messaging, develop a plan that details the communication channels you will use to reach and engage your audience, such as social media, email, events, online advertising, etc. Be sure to tailor your messaging to each channel. For example, on social media you’ll want to modify your language to be simple yet engaging to encourage sharing. Similarly, for display advertisements on websites, distill your messaging into compelling headlines and striking visuals to grab your audience’s attention.
Step 4: Equip your team for success
With your plan in hand, start nailing down the details of how you will execute it. A great way to set expectations and roles is using the RASCI framework. Figure out who is responsible, accountable, supporting, consulting, and informed on your campaign so that specific roles are clear to everyone involved.
Project management tools like JIRA and Asana can also be incredibly helpful for keeping track of the moving parts before, during, and after your launch. Pick your favorite tool and create tasks with due dates, details, and assignments for your team.
Finally, conduct weekly, monthly, or quarterly touchpoints with your team members to ensure things stay on track.
Step 5: Launch, measure, and optimize
It is time to launch your communications campaign. To test or preview your campaign, consider doing a soft launch first. This is a launch to a limited portion of your audience, so you can gather data and feedback before going public. A public launch could be initiated through an event, webinar, or release of a new initiative to a wider audience.
Start measuring performance right when your campaign launches to identify areas for improvement. Base this evaluation on the SMART goals that you set previously, using Google Analytics and other measurement tools on your social and email platforms to assess engagement, website traffic, and any other metrics that relate to your goals.
Use these insights to optimize your campaign by updating the messaging and design of your ads and rethinking what channels you are using for outreach. Don’t be afraid to shift your approach if something seems like it isn’t working. Finally, once your campaign concludes, have a debrief meeting with your team to discuss what you learned, what worked, and what you could have done better.