Relationships, Roles, and Strategy

Wait for Buy-In. Rethinking communications can be both time-consuming and threatening to the status quo for some nonprofits,” said a communications consultant, and funders may have to “sell” the idea to grantees. “They may believe that investing in marketing means taking resources — including their time — away from their program work.” Her advice: “The organization’s heart needs to be in this for it to be worth doing, and you don’t want any group just going through the motions to make a funder feel good. For any number of good reasons, it may just not be the right time.” It may be helpful to share case studies or other materials on the value of communications and let the grantee know you’re willing to talk further when the timing is better.

Anticipate cost. As valuable as communications can be, it does cost money. A grantee may rightly feel that every dollar spent on communications is one dollar less for programs or operating support. Or a communications review may reveal a deeper problem with a nonprofit’s mission, strategy, or operations — a problem that costs the grantee money to address. Then there are the costs of implementing communications activities and monitoring progress, the time and attention of an organization’s leadership, and unanticipated out-of-pocket expenses. “From the get-go,” said a communications consultant, “grantmakers should plan for how they will support grantees’ implementation of any [communications] plan, ideally with grant dollars and potentially also with connections to good sources of advice, design, and so on.”

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Communicating For Impact.