Communication During COVID and Crisis [Part 3/6]: Communicating Externally

In my most recent blog I talked, briefly, about day-to-day operations during COVID and crisis. I want to quickly summarize my tips from last time and then move on to the theme of the day.

  • Tip 1- Think creatively about how you engage in remote work.

  • Tip 2- Select digital tools carefully.

  • Tip 3- Care for employees and stakeholders.

  • Tip 4- Be informed.

  • Tip 5- Review big picture operations.

  • Tip 6- Don’t overwhelm yourself, or your people, with too much information.

Now, let’s transition to communication specific items. Today, I want to discuss communicating externally.

Nonprofits have many different audiences and each audience has a specific (or many specific) need. In my world we call this audience analysis. Your first step---identify what each audience needs, wants, and needs to know. First, think about your primary external audiences.

Tip 1- Conduct an Audience Analysis

Once you identify your audiences, think about what they need/want/need to know. We are in full blown crisis communication mode and, as such, communication is paramount.

For reference, The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a wonderful resource devoted to communicating during a crisis. I like to look at crisis communication, especially for nonprofits, through the lens of audiences. Nonprofits have two primary external audiences:


This audience includes public; donors; clients; politicians; local leaders, etc. Here are a few ideas for communicating with your stakeholders:

  • Embrace different channels (social media)

  • Remind donors of your needs/mission via stories

  • Perform a needs assessment

  • Identify your primary spokesperson

  • Clearly communicate policies during the crisis (signage, etc.)


A board requires different communication from your stakeholders. For boards, here are several ideas to help you communicate effectively during this time:

  • Identify, to your board, who will coordinate the crisis effort

  • Coordinate with your board

  • Media strategy plan (if appropriate)

  • Logistics for board meetings (i.e. virtual navigation)

  • Feedback from board on policy and procedures

  • Be ready to discuss finances/investments

  • What happens if someone is diagnosed?

  • Check your by-laws (can the board vote/meet remotely)

Each audience you have is different.

Tip 2- Stakeholders and Boards are different audiences and should be communicated to (and with) differently.

Once you understand this, and more so understand each group, your communication efforts will become more streamlined, engaging, and purposeful. This should, hopefully, lead to the development of a purposeful communication strategy plan.

Tip 3: Develop a Communication Strategy Plan

Think about, and identify, what information you need to share. Resources are available. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a continuously updated resource page that can be really helpful. Two quick thoughts before closing. I’m sure many of you are doing this, but before you ask donors to sacrifice, reflect on your own budget and consider if there are areas where your organization can sacrifice. Also, as you think about your donors, this is a great time to connect-call them, write notes, start a video blog update series, etc. Use this time to build relationships.

Questions? Comments? Other struggles? Send me an email or visit my website Let me know how I can help.

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