Communicating for Impact
how nonprofits in the housing and refugee spaces are tackling marketing challenges
For more than a decade, Angel Oak Creative has been blessed to play a small role in the huge impact the nonprofits we serve are having in our community and around the world. This March, we’re highlighting the incredible work done by organizations working to alleviate housing insecurity and provide refugee services. It’s a tragedy to witness so many people across the world fleeing their countries, searching for a roof to place over their heads. And the need is not only pressing – it is one that is unfortunately not slowing down.
As we continue to read about the dire situation in the Ukraine, our thoughts and prayers go out to the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who have been impacted by the attack on their country. People leaving their homes or being left homeless is sadly a reality that affects too many across the globe – and also in our own community.
Communicating for Impact
Where there is a persistent need, effective communications are critical in raising awareness of the opportunity to invest in the organizations offering solutions. Unfortunately, it’s easy to miss the mark while trying to communicate in the midst of a crisis, especially when a lack of success could cost lives. So, we want to share a few best marketing practices to help you engage your supporters so they will lean into these time-sensitive needs!
1.) Make your voice stand out (especially when everyone else is talking about the issue).
Speaking with clarity and certainty during a crisis is not for the faint of heart, especially in the midst of the digital age. As we are constantly bombarded with calls to action, it’s critical to break through the noise.
One of our favorite examples of a call to action that inspired people to act is Refugee Hope Partners‘ Mission of Welcome case for support. Through various channels including digital, print and multimedia, the campaign clearly articulates the need, the challenges and the solution to caring for an influx of refugees – with intentionality woven into every word. Like every good story, we clearly identify the problem (need), the obstacles (challenge) and the hero (the solution). In every call to action, you want to position both the donor AND the beneficiary of the nonprofit’s services as the hero. Make sure to preserve the dignity of everyone involved, and position yourselves as the bridge to allow the heroes’ mission to be fulfilled. Here’s what we mean:
A. The need:
refugees are caught up in the chaos of dramatic separation from their homeland, and they need a safe place for them and their family to settle.
B. The challenge:
there’s not enough capacity in RHP’s current hub, resettlement numbers are skyrocketing and there is scarce affordable housing in Raleigh.
C. The hero:
there is a clear call to action to “invest so that all may thrive” – RHP is creating their very first official RHP Welcome Center that will stand as a gathering place for all refugee families that allows them to work toward resettlement and success.
Refugee Hope Partners establishes clarity in both their passion for helping refugees and their expertise in how to provide stability for those seeking a new home. They refer to refugees as their “new neighbors” and establish their mission as a stepping stone for families, not the ultimate answer. The challenges facing these families are dire, but the tone of the campaign is welcoming, not alarming.
2.) Capitalize on awareness and create momentum.
In the digital age and with millennials and Gen Z entering the target age group of potential donors, it’s more crucial than ever to show that you’re committed to inspiring long-term, transformational change. And it’s critical to share about your work on the channels that resonate with that younger audience.
Surrounding any crisis, there’s likely to be news coverage, social discussion and increased awareness. Leveraging that awareness to build understanding and interest in the issue – and your role in addressing it – is a critical piece of building momentum for your organization. Use the trending hashtags, share content to your Instagram story, generate a text-to-give number for easy donations, retweet relevant articles… These are all ways to capitalize on the momentum that exists and to empower a younger, digitally-savvy audience to act.
3.) Equip your stakeholders.
Even the largest construction teams are nearly worthless without being equipped with the right tools they need to successfully build the project they’ve been tasked with. This is just as true for your board members, donors, volunteers and other stakeholders when they’re asked to spread the word about the critical work you’re doing in the midst of a crisis. Refugee Hope Partners leveraged the messaging, collateral, imagery and digital content of its Mission of Welcome case for support to equip their supporters to share the need and opportunity with their network.
This method of equipping not only resulted in increased awareness, but (more importantly) an increase in new donors and giving from current donors, plus the return of a number of lapsed donors. The lesson: don’t squander your supporters’ willingness to advocate for you by failing to equip them with the tools they need to succeed.
In our experience, it’s critical to make your voice heard, capitalize on the awareness to create momentum and to equip your stakeholders to be your ambassadors in the midst of a crisis. If you’re successful, not only will you reach your fundraising and communications goals, but you’ll also increase your impact with the communities you serve!
Special shout-out to some of the other amazing organizations we have the privilege of working with that are active in the housing and/or refugee sectors: USCRI North Carolina, Centrant Community Capital, Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, Healing Transitions, Interfaith Prison Ministry for Women, Raleigh Dream Center and more!