A clear understanding of a societal problem and passion for a cause are what gave birth to your organization. They’re also the same two things that keep it alive. When every member of your team—beyond just your founder or development director—can speak eloquently and fervently about your organization and its mission, you build an army of knowledgeable spokespeople ready to educate others to combat an issue.
To ensure that every team member is well-equipped to speak on behalf of your organization, its programs, and the challenges of your beneficiaries, you can take steps to set them up for success. In doing so, you can unify your organization’s voice and tone, appear more informed and professional, gain access to networks right under your nose, and create powerful brand representatives.
1. Hire the Right People
You always want to make a concerted effort to hire the right individuals for your organization. An important criterion to consider in your interview process is whether or not the individual has what it takes to effectively communicate your cause to the world around them. The most attractive candidates are not only those demonstrating mastery of the tasks they’d need to complete, but also a mastery of interpersonal skills.
Your organization can take steps to ensure your employees have what it takes to not only do their jobs, but also effectively communicate your mission. Here at Classy, we believe every member of our team should embody leadership qualities in some facet. When we build a team of leaders, we build a team of people with the personal goals and skills necessary to wear multiple hats, expand in their roles, and effectively communicate to others not only within the organization, but also outside of it.
Place an emphasis on effective communication skills in your interview process and hire well-rounded employees that have the capacity to confidently learn and speak about every department within your organization. This focus and the right training will help you build a team that never misses an opportunity to further your cause and speak confidently about it.
2. Train Your Entire Team
Everyone from your designer to your staff accountant should understand your cause, mission, and fundraising and program goals. If a potential supporter meets your finance intern on the street, the intern should feel confident in their ability to speak on behalf of your organization with the same self-assurance as your CEO.
What Do They Need to Know?
What’s at stake. What is the current state of affairs? Why does this need to change? Why hasn’t this problem already been solved?
What you’re doing to address the problem. What types of programs do you offer? How are they supported? Who are your beneficiaries? What do their lives look like? How do your programs effect change?
Why your organization needs support. Where does your funding come from? What are your key initiatives and efforts that lead to your sustainability? What would it take for you to achieve scalability?
How dollars are spent. What percentage of revenue goes to development versus your programs, versus your staff, versus your operations? Why are certain amounts of money spent in these areas?
How their individual role ladders up to the organization’s larger goals. How do their personal contributions help their department meet their goals? How does this in turn help the entire organization?
How your organization fits into the bigger picture. Who are your partners? What organizations offer similar programs? What organizations have programs that complement your work to achieve the larger mission? How do the political and economic landscapes impact or impede your organization’s success?
Your organization’s core values, brand, and voice. What ways of thinking and working unite your entire team? How is your brand viewed in the eyes of the public? What qualities do you strive to maintain in your voice?
To ensure every member of your team feels empowered to answer all of these questions, provide adequate training and opportunities for cross-departmental learning. You can also take steps to ensure this process is continually carried out as your team grows.
Create a Hierarchy of Training
Select a lead in each department that will take responsibility for educating new members of your team. This point person would provide materials, instruction, and serve as a designated sounding board for any questions of this nature. When you clearly designate a lead, newcomers will feel they have a resource they can comfortably approach.
Provide Ample Resources
Your trainers and trainees should feel like they have access to all of the information they need to answer the above questions. In addition to any “all-hands” style or cross-departmental meetings to exchange any updates, you can also provide your employees with assets that will empower them to speak on your behalf. Examples of useful assets include:
- A one-sheet document on your organization’s value proposition
- Social media guidelines and post examples
- A shared, living document of FAQs for reference
- Email templates for communicating with supporters
You might work at a nonprofit, but when it comes down to it we’re all selling something. And we can all benefit from practicing our sales skillset. Contrary to popular belief, great salespeople aren’t loud, boisterous people with a hidden agenda. Great salespeople are great listeners. They identify and solve for a need, working to match customers with a product that adds value to their lives.
You might not be selling a product, but you are selling an idea—a solution, and you need to convince potential supporters they’re not only wanted, but needed.
Every individual at your organization should feel comfortable and confident delivering an “elevator pitch” on behalf of your organization. Speaking is often a source of anxiety for many, so give your staff members the practice they need to feel confident. Use pop-quizzes or trivia nights, or encourage your team to join a local speaking group, such as Toastmasters.
At Classy, we give employees the chance to speak on a topic of their choice during our monthly “Brain Food Fridays.” Any team member can pitch to present on an educational topic of their choice and use the speech as an opportunity to strengthen their public speaking skills.
3. Maintain a Culture of Openness
Fear breeds ignorance. If your employees are afraid to ask questions or embarrassed to speak up, they will not acquire the information they need to be a true advocate of your organization. Promote an open-door policy and encourage your team to express their thoughts, opinions, and questions at any time.
When you commit to fostering an open culture, you create a space for learning. Your team will feel more empowered to discuss missteps and problems and apply their findings as a group if they know they can rely on each other to communicate frequently and honestly.
With the right tools and information, your staff will be able to speak to any person, from any walk of life, in any situation about your organization and mission. Their confidence and authority on the subject can have the power to inspire others in their personal network and beyond. Effective communicators hold the power to create change. If you do not arm those closest to your cause, how can you expect to arm the world?