Internal Communications: What’s the Role of a Nonprofit Marketer?

Internal Communications: What's the Role of a Nonprofit Marketer?

Unlike the marketing you do to raise the public profile of your nonprofit, internal communications are all about engaging and educating colleagues within your organization. And even though the audience is different, many of the same principles and tools apply. Does this mean that nonprofit marketers should play a leading role?

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the importance of internal communication, how it benefits your regular marketing efforts, and a few tactics to consider. I think there’s a good chance you’ll see some opportunities where marketers can help guide and implement an effective strategy.

Internal Communications in a Nutshell

Internal communications are the efforts you make to spread knowledge and news to audiences within your organization, including employees, executive-level leaders and the Board of Directors. When done well, these communications help keep internal audiences aligned with the goals and brand of the organization as well as the latest developments.

In practice, internal communications and marketing can take many forms, like sending staff newsletters, sharing inspiring stories or news in a dedicated Slack channel, and even training employees as social media ambassadors.

Tapping Into Marketing Minds

When you look at larger companies and nonprofits, internal communications tend to be the responsibility of a human resources team. But what if, like many smaller charities, you don’t have an HR department or even a dedicated HR employee?

Some groups are now tapping their marketers to lead the charge. After all, marketing staffers have in-depth knowledge of the brand and experience talking about the mission in ways that get people excited. Plus, as you’ll see below, there are a lot of benefits to taking charge of internal communications when you’re already wearing the marketing hat.

How It Helps Marketers Succeed

Before you sprint away from the idea of adding internal communications to your plate, here are a few reasons that taking ownership in this area could benefit your marketing work overall.

Increase cross-team collaboration

When people feel informed, they’re more likely to contribute in productive ways. This is especially true when fundraising and marketing staff work together to align their goals. Internal communications can help reduce silos, shorten feedback cycles, and diversify solutions to organizational problems.

Connect internal and external cultures

Much like a culture of philanthropy, prioritizing internal communications can have big impacts across your organization as well as with external audiences you’re looking to connect with. Imagine how reassuring it would be for a client, donor, volunteer or partner to hear consistent messages and feel your core values with each interaction.

Build strong brand advocates 

Keeping staff informed about the latest program and campaign or even a great story means that you now have more people to spread the word! If you’re hoping to start a social media ambassador program, working on internal communications is your first step.

Collect and create better content

Making compelling case stories and collecting user-generated content is a lot easier when it’s a team effort. Internal marketing can inspire colleagues to reach out to you about a potential story, or even prompt them to collect assets for you, like a quote or new photos.

Demonstrate leadership

If no one else is wrangling internal communications at your nonprofit, taking some ownership in this area is one way to show initiative. That’s not to say that you have to take full responsibility—even just identifying internal communications as a priority and getting the ball rolling could help you flex your leadership muscles.

Internal Marketing Tools & Tactics

Let’s be honest: playing with internal communications tools is probably the part that marketers look forward to the most. And for a good reason! In addition to using some of the technology you might have in place already for external audiences, there are some fun, new tactics to try.

  • Sharing highlights and kudos over chat. With tools like Slack, Google Hangouts Chat and Workplace by Facebook, you can keep staff connected without flooding their inboxes with more emails.
  • Building a content library. Make an internal content hub for your nonprofit as a way to offer easily accessible photos, stories, templates and resources for all to use and share.
  • Send voice memos. If creating an internal podcast isn’t in the cards, consider recording voice memos on your smartphone to give verbal updates that can be attached to an email and listened to anytime. You can also try a phone app like Marco Polo.
  • Use surveys, quizzes and quick polls.  Free tools like Google Forms and SurveyMonkey allow you to create more interactive internal communications to gather ideas and comments (even anonymously).

Don’t have time for something totally new? Consider adding a spot for internal communications in existing meeting agendas or staff calls.

Here at Wired Impact, we have an all-team call on Fridays where we give staff shout outs, share the things that made us happy during the week, and talk through changes we’d like to make going forward—plus the occasional round of “Know Ya Coworker” trivia. It’s a great time for quick updates about ongoing and upcoming marketing work with the whole team’s attention.

Starting the Conversation

As you think about internal communications at your nonprofit, what are the challenges and opportunities? Is there someone who’s already tackling it that could use your marketing expertise? If you’re not sure what role you should play but see some ways to move your organization forward, don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation.  

A good place to start is getting a consensus about what’s working well with internal communications, what could be improved, and defining the type of future state you’d like to achieve. Down the road, it’s a good idea to put everything together in an internal communications plan much like you would for your external efforts.

Nonprofit marketers are skilled at building a sense of community and celebrating shared successes. It’s a natural step to start contributing to internal communications, too. In the end, all staff will benefit from the effort. And who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

What questions (or frustrations) do you have about internal communications at your organization? If you’re a marketer who manages or helps with internal communications, what tactics have worked for your nonprofit? See you in the comments!