IN THIS CHAPTER YOU'LL LEARN:
- How to develop a communications strategy on your own.
- What to look out for when creating written project reports.
- How to highlight your project’s results in your reports.
You’ve experienced much over the course of your journey. Even while at sea, you regularly transmitted sea condition reports home. Having returned to your home port, you look back on your journey and draw up a more detailed report.
The content and the way you style your report will differ depending on your audience. For some recipients, a bit of general information about the crossing will suffice, while others will want detailed knowledge about what route you took, whether you ran into giant waves, and what specifically needs to be considered when sailing around the world.
You should report on your project results just as you would your travel experiences: in a factually correct way, with the level of detail tailored to the target group, and free of all tall tales.
Communicating about the project helps you achieve and prompt improvement. However, you also provide legitimacy to your work in this way – with funders as well as with the public more broadly.
Some projects shy away from the public eye because they lack the resources and/or skills, because they fear their results aren’t good enough, or because they regard their project work as being more important.
These motives are all entirely understandable. However, they contradict the underlying meaning of impact-oriented project work:
- Transparent external communication creates affinity and trust.
For example, the public can develop an understanding of your organization’s work (and for that of the non-profit sector) only if it is informed appropriately – the more so as it is also entitled to learn what organizations receiving tax benefits are actually doing.
But transparency is worthwhile even within the sector, because it enables other actors to orient themselves toward you and your projects.
With regard to fundraising and cooperation, potential partners and donors expect at least basic information, if not highly detailed documentation, from high-quality projects.
- Moreover, your organization will benefit from internal communication.
Transparency renders undesirable developments visible, leading you to reexamine your own objectives and results regularly, and make changes as necessary.
When staff or volunteer employees know what they’re supporting, what long-term goals they’re jointly striving toward, and what they’re actually achieving through their engagement, this strengthens their motivation and identification with the project. In this way, you’ll immediately improve the quality of your work.
In addition, transparency is a society-wide trend. Thanks to regular scandals, organizations that work with minimal transparency are viewed more critically by the media and public than ever before. Stand up against the general suspicion that everyone wants to hide something! And make your stance useful by enthusiastically and factually providing information about your work.
In this sense, impact-oriented communication extends considerably beyond project and progress reports. Impact-oriented communication above all means seeking out the public and reporting on successes and lessons learned.
Because your organization probably works with tax-supported resources, it is important that you make the case for acceptance through your work. And finally, other actors can benefit from your findings only to the degree they are informed of them.
Of course, no matter how large your organization is or how aggressive you want your public strategy to be, this is all contingent on sufficient resources having been budgeted for external communication. If scarce resources mean you can’t do this, focus instead on providing your core messages and essential information through one or two communication channels.
It’s important to follow a communication strategy that both suits you and is appropriate. Depending on what audience is being addressed, clever ideas, creativity and a pragmatic approach are sometimes preferable to a comprehensive, 100-page PDF report on your activities.