Always Eat Green Worms & Other Tips for Nonprofit Communication (From My Kids)
Last week was my first week at work after spending a couple weeks with my two boys, both under age four. I was looking forward to interacting with adults again. But, my kids informed my writing and conversation as I dove into my work as a communications and marketing specialist. Here are just a few communication tips I picked up from the (extremely) junior staff in my house:
Keep it Simple!
Toddlers and preschoolers don’t respond well to extra details thrown at them all at once. I can’t tell my three year old to: “go upstairs, put on a weather appropriate outfit, brush your teeth and then meet me by the front door to get your coat on.” Instead, I say, “Okay dude, time to go upstairs”–that’s it. Communication among adults is surprisingly similar. Have you seen an internal email that read like this: “ I’m hoping that we can, as a team, get together and discuss the many avenues we may take for coming up with cost-effective educational programming that fits in with our mission. Let’s meet at your convenience.” It’s easy for a reader to get lost in all those details and the open ended closing will slow your team down. Simpler is better! Try something like this: “ Dear colleagues, let’s meet to discuss new programming. I propose next Tuesday at 9am.” You can set the parameters for discussion, later, in a follow up email or at the start of the meeting.
Answer the number 1 question: Why?
Everyone knows little kids are notorious for one question. “Why?” As a parent, this can be endlessly tiring and possibly annoying. From a communication point of view, this line of questioning is invaluable. If you are creating a communications campaign, or even just a Facebook post for an event your nonprofit is hosting, you have to understand the intent behind the programming. Before you write a single word for that press release or tweet, talk to your colleagues on the planning side and understand why they want people to come. Why is this program relevant to your mission? Once you know why, you’ll craft clearer, effective copy.
Spin it Right!
In my house, we don’t run errands, we go on “an adventure in the car.” We don’t go for a walk, we “explore the neighborhood.” We don’t just take a nap or bath, we nominate a line leader and march upstairs. We never eat green beans; we always eat green worms. The way I package ideas, especially ideas that seem like they require a little work–or even scarier–might be brand new, requires finesse. I don’t lie to my kids. I do guide them through with a little extra sugar, lots of enthusiasm, and little opportunity to say no. As we’re all revealing new goals, pitching new ideas, recruiting new donors and mobilizing volunteers, remember, we’re not nonprofit staff; we’re superheroes making our communities better!
These are just a few of the communications basics my kids have illuminated lately. It make sense spending so much time with the newest and arguably most important two people in my community would inspire a return to the fundamentals. In what unusual places do you find strategic inspiration? What strategies and reminders are driving and motivating you as we start 2016?
Amanda is a communications strategist, writer and events producer. She currently manages social media for TakeTwo. Are you following us on Twitter , LinkedIn and Facebook?