Recap: Integrated Communications Strategies for Nonprofits


On March 23, Michele Dilworth, director of Foundation Center West, spoke with Aidan Lukomnik, head of Social Impact North America for Hotwire Global Communications. The event was held in partnership with Development Executives Roundtable (DER), and focused on integrated communications strategies for nonprofits. A recording of the event is available here.

Here are our top five takeaways from the conversation:

  1. Having a strong digital communications strategy can actually boost your revenue. Lukomnik started the event by discussing Hotwire’s work with a major medical research non-profit. The non-profit needed to increase digital donations  year over year, and partnered with Hotwire in order to achieve this. Working together, Hotwire and the non-profit crafted an end-of-year giving campaign which utilized both owned and paid strategies across social media, email, and search advertising. This strategy, increased year over year digital donations by 78% and provide a 320% return on investment.
  2. Branding is aspirational. One of the common communications mistakes organizations make, according to Lukomnik, is focusing too much on their current reality. Instead, he said, branding should communicate the vision of where an organization would like to be. This strategy helps to demonstrate an organization’s forward momentum and keeps communications on track without constantly requiring the need to update as the organization moves closer to its vision.
  3. “The press release is dead; long live the press release.” Lukomnik and his team members use this phrase as a sort of inside joke. While print media is losing traction in favor of social media and other digital communications (like blogging), it is still effective. Lukomnik says that journalism is “the best way to have person-to-person communication at-scale. It’s essentially one person referring you to someone else. And we know that that kind of referral is the most effective way to do marketing and communications.” Additionally, Lukomnik called out letter campaigns as being effective for fundraising, partly because print media is becoming increasingly novel, and it feels nice to a donor to receive a letter via snail mail. The only thing, though, is that print media has much lower distribution than digital channels. So Lukomnik highly recommends that organizations engage online and use print media strategically.
  4. You should be on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn already. No matter the size of your organization, Lukomnik says, you should be using these three platforms. But depending on the size and capacity within your organization, you can scale up from there. Arts organizations, for example, might be well-served to use Instagram (or Vero). The questions you should ask yourself when choosing social media platforms are: Is your audience using the platform? And how do you want them to interact with the platform? While it can seem intimidating to be on three social networks, Lukomnik suggested starting by devoting 30-45 minutes to content creation and posting per day. If you can manage that, scale up to an hour a day. Finally, he suggested that having your employees use social media to promote your organization is an effective way to expand your reach and impact.
  5. Be an advocate… and stay on brand. Lukomnik says more and more, social sector participants (from donors to professionals to volunteers and beyond) are asking that organizations advocate for something. And he encourages organizations to be advocates--it’s okay for your organization to stand for something. The neutral organization is less and less trendy. But: it’s important that you advocate for causes that are on message with your mission. For example, if you are an organization that runs food banks, and your mission is to end hunger, make sure you share articles that pertain to ending hunger. You probably shouldn’t start tweeting about education, as well. Make sure that all of your advocacy is integrated into your mission, and into your overall brand.

What communications strategies have worked best for your organization? What are some of your lessons learned when it comes to digital engagement and marketing? Reply in the comments below, or tweet at us, @FCSanFrancisco.