Three steps to better communications in a small organization

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Pam Turos | Managing Editor

  1. You need a plan.

  2. It needs to be simple.

  3. And you need to write it down.

I am not a natural “systems person.” There was a time, not so long ago, when the only routine I followed consistently was to brush my teeth every morning. And I know I’m not alone.

Many of my clients and colleagues in small organizations feel they have to prioritize anything related to their service and mission ahead of content creation, social media planning and web analytics. The truth is, many nonprofits with a team of five or fewer have gotten away with the “we do what we can, when we can” approach to blog posts and newsletters for years.

Fortunately, we’ve spent plenty of time thinking about this challenge at Good Cause Creative, in part because we struggle with the same issues. I still tease my first client (now a statewide organization with a $3 million budget) that I tried for years to join their email list and get invited to their events. I swear it felt like they were a secret society!

When they first hired me, our only goal was to hold a one-hour monthly editorial meeting and consistently send e-mail updates to their supporters. We also fixed the newsletter sign-up link on their website. Simple as that. That client eventually outgrew my services, but I still get excited every time I receive a monthly e-news from their communications director.

How did we accomplish this back when they were a team of just 3 people?

Success for small teams starts with the belief that any plan is better than no plan. When I launched WISH Cleveland four years ago, my initial goal was to publish one story per week. It took me almost a year to reach that goal. Then, we challenged ourselves to publish two posts per week and started the WISH Weekly e-news.

Around that time, I enlisted the editorial support of Nic Abraham, whose job it was to keep me accountable for getting the stories published and the newsletter sent out every month. Now, we have an editor who manages a team of paid writers. Nic publishes the stories on the website and puts the e-news together by Friday. On Monday, it’s my job to read, edit and approve the e-news. We keep it simple. And we wait until something becomes a habit before we add anything else to the plan.

Often, the first goal I create with a small team is simply “Create a plan.” Here are a few more examples of starter goals we’ve set with clients:

  • Remove/replace all outdated content on your website.

  • Write a list of all the ways you communicate and who is responsible.

  • Define your ideal client, donor or target audience with as much detail as possible.

  • Publish to social media once per week, consistently.

  • Publish one blog post per month.

  • Set up recurring monthly editorial meetings to plan for the month ahead.

Just pick a couple. I’m not suggesting anyone do all of these things at once. That’s a recipe for failure if you’re starting from ground zero. Another common mistake is to communicate in too many places. If you start by choosing one place where you always communicate, people will follow. But it takes time to establish their trust that you’ll always show up.

We recommend that small organizations commit to only these three things, as a start:

  1. An email newsletter on a consistent schedule, even if it’s just quarterly

  2. Consistent posts on at least one social media channel

  3. Clean, accurate website copy on a mobile-responsive site

And yes, you have to write it down. Why? Because it feels so good when you get to write COMPLETED next to each of your goals as you achieve them. You’ll also reinforce the habit with a dose of dopamine every time you look at that list of goals achieved.

Do only what you can do well and consistently, and your success will build on itself.

Simple as that.

Need a little help getting started? I’m planning a Content Creation for Small Organizations workshop at the Good Cause Creative office on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Click here to register.

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