communication trends for nonprofits

2015 Communications Trends for Nonprofits

Now that 2015 has rolled in, you might be asking yourself, What might be the best use of my communication budget for the year? Certainly that will vary by organization and staff, but the growing trend, which is pretty straightforward and certainly worth embracing, is clear: focus more attention on your current support base, with fresh content, and do it digitally (be it by desktop computer, mobile device or email). The recently published 2015 Communications Trends was produced by the author of the well-received resource guide: The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, Kivi Leroux Miller. It is a survey of more than 1,500 nonprofits (the majority of which were based in the USA), with compiled data focusing on the feedback and expectations of Communications and Development personnel. I found this report to be as enjoyable to read as it was informative. Although many of the conclusions may seem very familiar, if nothing else it will serve as a priority checklist of things too long ignored. Below are excerpts of the report. To download the full report (it’s free!), just visit:

Major Take-Aways

    • Donor Retention is Finally a Priority. For the first time in five years, donor retention has jumped ahead of donor acquisition as a major communications goal. Donor retention jumped from 4th to 2nd place in the list, and Donor acquisition fell from 1st place to 4th. (Engaging our community moved from 2nd place to 1st place.) … In other words, nonprofits are asking for money and other support more often.
    •  “Engaging Our Community” is the top communications goal; but marketing, fundraising, and programmatic goals are all important to success.
    • The most important communications channels, in order, are websites, email marketing, traditional social media, in-person events, print marketing, and media relations/PR. (see chart below)
    • Email appeals and email newsletters are both sent monthly. (Top call-to-action priority was: asking for a financial donation, followed by: asking to register for or attend an event, then: asking to otherwise use programs or services as a client or participant.)
    • Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the most important social media sites.
    • The biggest challenges are lack of time to produce quality content, lack of budget for direct expenses, and inability to measure effectiveness.
    • Direct-mail appeals are sent twice a year, and print newsletters are sent quarterly (if at all).

Staff Views

One of the more interesting items in the report was What Excites Communications Staff about 2015? Instead of offering yet another table or graph, the authors chose to compile selective quotes that reflected the information of the survey. Here are the things respondents said they were doing to improve communication with their constituents:

Topic: Building community awareness through multiple communications channels

“Our continued growth in engaging the community in our work via online media. This also spurs regular interaction by mainstream media coming to us for comment and perspective.”

“Integrating and improving communications efforts and aligning communications with development.”

“Making our website compatible with mobile.”

“We’re starting a blog!! YAY! A chance to offer great quality content for our members and supporters!”

“I’m very excited to develop a more comprehensive social media strategy.”

“Learning new technology and understanding the changing digital and social marketing platforms.”

“Creative opportunities with new channels for content distribution.”

“This will be the year for quality digital content that’s interactive and tells an engaging story.”

“Doing a new YouTube series.”

“I love a challenge! We just provided our staff with social media training about how they can be our ambassadors through these channels. So exciting!”

 What’s Most Important

The results on the level of importance for various communication channels just might be the most informative part of the survey. Below are the rankings. However, I recommend that you read the full report to see which channels were ranked: very important, somewhat important, and least important. Communications Ranked

      • Website 32%
      • Email Marketing 15%
      • Traditional Social Media 11%
      • In-Person Events 19%
      • Print Marketing 9%
      • Media Relations/PR 8%
      • Blogging 1%
      • Phone Calls/Phone Banks 1%
      • Video / Visual Social Media / Paid Advertising 1%
      • Mobile Apps or Texting / Podcasting <1%

 How About You?

With this said, is your communication toolbox up to the task? Is your website reflective of both your current programs and your need for support? Is your website responsive to mobile devices? And, are you collecting your share of visitor email addresses? If not, give us a call and let’s see what we can do.