Effective and timely nonprofit communication is always important, but it has become even more key over the last few months as the public health and medical communities worked to stop the spread of the new coronavirus across the world.
By now, basic public health concepts—like social distancing and flattening the curve—have become broadly understood through concerted communication efforts by organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health departments.
Crisis communication plans are a critical component of an effective response strategy. And while we’ve all experienced a deluge of COVID-19 information over the past few months, we’ve also seen compelling examples of great nonprofit communications and messaging.
We go in detail on best practices for nonprofit communications during COVID-19 in this article here.
In this article, we share some of our favorite examples of great nonprofit communications during COVID-19, as well as the ‘recommended’ structure of an effective message.
Recommended Structure of Effective Message During COVID-19
1. Lead with care for the safety of the individual.
Acknowledge that this is an unprecedented time and that many are experiencing disruption to their lives.
Sample Messaging: It is our sincere hope that you and your family are well and safe, as much as it’s possible in these extraordinary times.
2. State the facts.
Provide accurate information from CDC, WHO, your State and County Health Departments, and your state nonprofit association.
Describe the impact of the outbreak on your operations, services, travel, program participants, community members, revenues, etc.
If services will be disrupted, explain why, and offer alternatives. If you have to close a location or change your method for delivering services, explain why (again using authoritative sources) and aim to offer alternative methods for people to access the care or resources they need. Do the same if you have/had an upcoming conference, event, or major gathering planned.
3. Provide a high-level summary of the steps you’re taking.
Clearly articulate and communicate decisive preventive actions your organization is taking to avert or contain transmission of the disease. Focus particularly on your expertise and how you’re helping your constituents and community in this time of upheaval.
Promote steps that supporters, employees, and volunteers can take to protect themselves.
Sample Messaging: As a close friend of our organization, we want to share with you…
Consider sharing your organization’s crisis response fund, links to useful resources, or other opportunities to get involved.
4. Circle back to your organization’s mission and ask for help.
Your “why” is what rallies people to your cause and inspires your supporters. Circle back to your mission and how critical their support is to your year-round work. Reemphasize the need of the communities you serve.
Sample Messaging: Amidst the uncertainty of this moment, one thing remains clear: the need for our services within the community has never been greater.
5. Say thank you.
Make absolutely sure your donors know their gift made a difference and how valued they are. A simple thank you goes a long way.
Sample Messaging: As a supporter of our organization, you empower our ability to respond to this crisis, continue services to our constituents, and advance our mission. Thank you.
Real-Life Examples of Effective Communications
Here are some real-life examples of effective communications during COVID-19. The channels vary, but the messages are all compelling.
1. Homepage Announcement
If time and funds allow, build a landing page for your content during the COVID-19 crisis. This landing page should house all your crisis statements, blog posts, videos, and more.
Your homepage is usually the highest-trafficked page on your site and reaches a lot of visitors. Opt to put any coronavirus announcements close to the top of your page if you can. Use colors and text wisely and direct people to act.
UNDP’s homepage features an animated graphic with a powerful phrase and a simple invitation “Explore”. The announcement is front and center, with nothing to draw the eye away (except the “Donate” button – which is also a great practice).
Your nonprofit blog can play a critical role in a crisis communication plan. The very nature of a blog makes it ideal for ongoing updates that people can easily follow. It can also house many formats (letter, video, press release, fact sheet). Finally, it’s also easily linked to from elsewhere on your site in addition to being easily shared on other online channels.
The NAMI blog has been busy offering tips, advice, and insights on the impact of COVID-19 on our daily lives. They share valuable information with their audience, complete with expert tips and personal stories.
3. Pop-Up Window
A pop-up window serves as an attention-grabbing call-to-action that can direct people to a helpful resource, online form, fundraising campaign, or another type of call-to-action.
That’s precisely what The San Antonio Food Bank has done with its pop-up window.
Email is an excellent tool to deliver timely information, push overall engagement, and drive giving online. Remember to use powerful imagery, leverage on personalization, use storytelling, and keep your writing honest and simple.
The email by Water4 below starts with a serious question and a captivating subject line: “What if you can’t wash your hands? – COVID-19 & Water4.” It’s immediately attention-grabbing, and the body of the email further explains how a lack of access to water can hurt communities during this time.
5. Resource Center
If possible and relevant, create a resource center where your supporters can inform themselves and find useful tools. This is especially the case if your nonprofit is health-related.
Below is an example of a resource center created by HFA.
6. Social Media
On social media, the ‘visual’ reigns. Use high-quality images to gain traction. Post updates as often as needed. Remember to pin your most important information so it’s easily found by anyone visiting your social media profiles. Regularly answer messages and comments. And don’t forget that many have turned to social media for human connection right now – so see how you can respond to that need in an authentic way.
Here’s an example by Global Giving.
Over to You
When crafting a message during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s important to stay calm and composed. Focus on the facts, but also show understanding and empathy.
Stay pragmatic and useful, offering helpful and concrete information. Be selective about your words and your messaging in seas that are choppy and uncertain.
Remember to stay human – avoiding messaging that sounds too ‘robotic’. You have the opportunity to help people find hope in the chaos and calm in the storm. Use it!
During this challenging time, we are continuing to offer our perspectives and lessons learned from working with thousands of nonprofits. Click here to access our COVID-19 Resource Center.
Here you will find resources that provide best practices and optimal strategies to help your organization build a path through this crisis and beyond.
Furthermore, Donorbox is reducing its platform fee to 0.5% for nonprofits working directly in relief for those affected by a coronavirus for the next 2 months. Please reach out to our Donorbox team if you have any questions or concerns that we might help you with!