We are constantly bombarded by messages every day of our lives. If you’re tasked with getting people to notice your message in all of that noise, your job can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. And for those responsible for internal communications, the task is even harder.

When your colleagues are focused on completing their role-specific tasks, often facing time and resource constraints, it’s no surprise that staying up-to-date on internal messages can fall to the bottom of everyone’s to-do list.

But the reality is that there’s a cost to not prioritizing your organization’s internal communications. Poor internal communications can result in lower levels of staff engagement, reduced productivity, higher staff turnover, and an increase in misalignment and errors. On the flip side, if your internal communications strategy is effective, you will often end up with a highly connected and engaged team.

So, the question is: how do you cut through all of the noise?

Here are some tips and tactics to help you execute an effective internal communications strategy

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How to communicate

How you communicate your message is just as important as the message itself.

  • Be concise: We’re all familiar with full workloads and short turnaround times, so the last thing we need or want is internal communications adding to the clutter. Keep your messages simple and to the point. Your colleagues will appreciate it.
  • Be transparent: Transparent communication fosters trust and open dialogue. If staff feel like they aren’t being told everything, they may be less likely to engage, discouraging the flow of information within your office.
  • Have fun and be creative: Your internal communications strategy doesn’t have to be boring. Yes, there will be times when you’ll need to adopt a more corporate tone, but, for the most part, try to remember that you’re speaking to real people who like hearing from a friendly, approachable person.
  • Let people tell their own stories: Regardless of the size of your organization (or your budget), everyone has access to the most powerful internal communications resource. Any guesses? It’s your people. Shift the power and provide opportunities for all staff to participate in the dialogue, not just senior leadership. For instance, an update on a successful campaign could come from the perspective of the staff who executed the plan from start to finish, instead of the department head who had a more arms-length role. The more voices that are shared, the more willing people will be to engage, and the more interesting and relevant your messages will become.
  • Leverage storytelling: Storytelling is an important part of external marketing, and for good reason. People tend to absorb information more easily when it’s packaged with a narrative that adds context and a relatable human element. So why not add stories to your internal communications toolbox? If your organization is expanding to support a new community, let staff know by sharing a story about what life is like in that community. Or breathe some life into a new staff announcement by highlighting the person’s favourite snack, in addition to their previous job experience.
Try to remember that you’re speaking to real people who like hearing from a friendly, approachable person. #internalcommunications Click To Tweet

What to communicate

The specific messages that need to be communicated will vary from organization to organization, but there are key elements that all internal communicators should weave into their strategies.

  • Include visuals: In today’s highly visual culture, it’s no surprise that people respond well to images. They’re great at conveying information in an easily digestible manner and often have more of a lasting impact than text. To break up your text, incorporate visual elements like photos, maps, or GIFs.
  • Leverage video: Nearly all of us carry a mini video studio around with us all day on our phones, so why not leverage video content for your strategy? Plus, since it’s for internal use, there’s no need to worry about polishing off every video with fantastic editing. It doesn’t have to be anything special—just a short video of you and your message to cut through the clutter.
  • Provide a personal benefit: If staff feel there’s a personal benefit to engaging with your internal communications channels, they may be more likely to use them. Share information about industry trends, available courses, or upcoming webinars that may be of interest to staff.
  • Acknowledge successes: It’s no surprise that people want to feel valued and appreciated when they are at work. Internal communications channels can be used to recognize the great work that your colleagues are doing. Acknowledging individual successes will help to position your internal communications channels as positive and motivating spaces.
'Acknowledging individual successes will help to position your internal communications channels as positive and motivating spaces.' #internalcommunications #nonprofit Click To Tweet

Where to communicate

When planning your internal communications strategies, think about whether or not the space—physical or digital—you’re communicating in is actually something that people will enjoy. There are plenty of different tools available for you to share your messages through, so you can afford to consider whether or not the medium fits the message.

  • Chat software: To avoid email overload, consider adopting a chat software, like Slack or Yammer. These types of tools offer a great place to inject some fun. And, since they’re perfect for sending short, quick messages, they’re also great at boosting productivity by decluttering email inboxes.
  • Presentations and workshops: Even though you have an abundance of digital communication tools at your fingertips, that doesn’t mean you should give up on face-to-face interactions. While some may view them as ‘old school,’ presentations and workshops can still be great places to share your internal messages—especially if one of your goals is to get your employees working with and learning from one another. Consider holding a Q&A between different departments or a Lunch & Learn for all staff (with free lunch for everyone, of course).
  • Centralized approved folder: If your organization is too small to justify building an intranet, create a centralized folder where all of your organization’s approved content can live, whether it’s collateral materials, expense forms, contact lists, new templates, or the latest programming numbers. This should be the first place that staff look for content, and sharing a link to this folder can help reduce your memo’s word count.
  • Podcasts: Chances are you’re not even using podcasts for your external marketing, so this may seem like a lot of work for internal communications. But why not think about an internal podcast as a way to test the waters (and your capacity and skill level) to determine if it’s something you can explore externally down the road. Plus, podcasts are fun and offer an engaging way to create content that’s available to staff no matter where they are.
  • Whiteboard in a central location: It’s as simple as it sounds. Post a large whiteboard in a heavily trafficked area of your office, and let anyone contribute to it. It can be a space where staff ask one another fun questions, like what book are you reading right now? And it can also be a news bulletin for important reminders, like an upcoming event or a new fundraising goal. By allowing it to serve many functions, including it in a heavily trafficked area, and letting staff have control over its use, you increase the chances that employees will read what’s on your whiteboard.

You can implement all of these tips and tactics at your organization, but the reality is that you won’t know if you are communicating effectively unless you ask. Provide channels for staff to share their feedback and ideas. And, equally as important, make sure you adjust course if something’s not working.

Internal communication is important, but it also offers a space to try new things with less risk. So, have fun, be willing to experiment, and learn to tolerate failure.

Do you have examples of effective or interesting internal communications you’ve received? Let us know in the comments below. 

Internal communications tips for nonprofit organizations: 14 ideas to boost impact and engagement Click To Tweet
Alex Kruger

Alex Kruger

Marketing and Brand Manager at Pathways to Education Canada
Alex Kruger is the Marketing and Brand Manager at Canada’s award-winning social innovation, Pathways to Education Canada. With close to 10 years’ experience working in marketing, brand development, communications, and media, she has consistently helped non-profit organizations build their brands, share their work, and create positive social change. She is a firm believer in the power of authentic storytelling.
Alex Kruger
Alex Kruger