Communications is NOT Overhead

If you work for a social impact organization, chances are your work involves moving people to action, enacting public policy, providing services, conducting research, changing public opinion, or some combination of these and other functions.

What good does it do our society if the powerful work you do is known to only a small cross section of the population? Or if the report you wrote about hunger or homelessness or healthcare access is read only by your Board of Directors?

If there is one thing the social impact sector must do more of it’s this: Tell your stories to a broader audience! That belief is what inspired me to start Impact Communications 20 years ago and I still believe it as wholeheartedly today.

As we wind down our 20th anniversary year, I want to challenge you to ask yourself these questions about your organization’s commitment to storytelling:

  1. Do you see your communications staff and fundraising communications staff as overhead? They are not. They play a pivotal role in advancing your mission. Let’s tell our funders and our donors that this is an investment we MUST have with EVERY project.
  2. How many of your foundation’s funders give you money not just to develop a program or conduct research, but ALSO to tell the world about it? Start including that expense in your proposals.
  3. Does your programmatic staff find it burdensome to talk with fundraising and communications staff; to share stories and images from the field and invest time in content development? If so, you have to change this from the top and ensure that storytelling is valued by everyone. Not just because it pays their salary, but because it’s part of the social change.
  4. Do your Board members roll their eyes every time you mention fundraising or outreach? It’s time to train your Board members in communications and fundraising storytelling as an essential part of their role as leaders of the organization.

The truth is, fundraising and communications teams are essential to the advancement of your mission . . . because stories move people to action and action moves your mission forward.

For more inspiration on this topic, check out this article from Stanford Social Innovation Review.

– Kathy Swayze

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