External communications tips to non-profits during the COVID-19 crisis


Olga Shershen


The world is in the grip of a large-scale health crisis and this is an endurance test for charities. All aspects of the work of the third sector organisations have changed in the context of global quarantine restrictions. But the communication problem is one of the most important for non-profits. Clients, board members, donors, and staff need to be updated about how you are responding to the crisis. Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for each charity. But in any case, don’t go absolutely silent. Discuss different scenarios with your team and develop communication strategies that will correlate with your mission.

Be adaptive and take into account the mood of your audience
Often, companies have a pre-prepared communication plan for interacting with key audiences and partners. However, when the world around changes rapidly, the channels and tonality of communication transform, you should not rely on outdated plans. Cancel those publications that are no longer relevant. Review your strategy and decide what is important for your audience at that very moment.

Develop a key message or several messages that will be supplemented depending on the target audience. Use them to create a faster response to a particular situation. Keep those key messages in the form of online docs that you can quickly update and share them with your team.

Be proactive and get ahead of your clients’ and partners needs
Identify the main communication channels that will help you to get to your audience during this difficult time when some media is totally ineffective. Post an update to your website, use newsletters and social networks. Think proactively about what your audiences want to know. Define the most urgent messages and make a schedule.

Inform people about the working hours of your organisation’s under quarantine and give up-to-date contacts in case your employees work remotely and do not have access to corporate mail. Having a new communications plan implemented, continue to keep your audiences informed about how it’s going. Make it clear to others that you work, albeit virtually.

Consider your tone and be communicative
It is important to communicate with empathy today more than ever. Consider your every message in the context of current events and COVID19. Constantly analyse the situation and mood of the audience, things may change very quickly. If in a doubt, consult with your team or hold it for later.

Use visual content but consider what kind of reaction a particular picture might cause. Your messages during the crisis should not be gloomy, but charitable organisations deal with very sensitive topics and vulnerable people, so be careful. Look for ideas that will inspire your audience.

It is worth noting that local media today faced a staff and news shortage. The number of events and activities has decreased. Therefore, topics that before the crisis was difficult to pitch to journalists today may be more welcome.

Do not be pessimistic
Although it’s important to get attached to the context when working with communications you should balance immediate response with long-term planning. I know it’s hard to think beyond today’s crisis now, but it’s actually a good time for experimenting and planning. Things like rebranding, updating the website design, or planning new projects can be time-consuming in everyday life. But when some of your work processes slow or frozen in crises, you can actually focus on such tasks. It’s also a perfect opportunity for trying new types of content or different approaches to your audience. This crisis won’t last forever, and today it is necessary to strengthen your brand to lay the foundation for a successful tomorrow.

Olga Shershen, Red Line Foundation

Tagged in: Covid-19 Funding practice

Comments (1)

Dean parry

Hi, Olga, As you know I am not a organisation etc but Red Line Foundation has helped me through my recovery period, what you do is amazing and hopefully inspires others. Kind regards Dean parry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *