Being Communication Minded in a Nonprofit World

Hello Communication Minded friends, it time for another guest blogger! This month we bring to you Cortney Aherron. Cortney is a 2013 Communication Studies graduate of UNCW. As an undergraduate Cortney served as co-coordinator for the UNCW Communication Studies annual breast cancer fundraiser, Rock For A Cure. She was also the events intern for New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation, working on projects such as the Coastal Classic Golf Tournament and the Pink Ribbon Project Luncheon & Cocktail Party. Her undergrad efforts won her the Fall 2013 Communication Studies Outstanding Leadership Award. Since graduating, she has obtained a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University and works as Public Relations Coordinator for the Danville Family YMCA.

Being Communication Minded in a Nonprofit World

I never purposefully geared my career towards the nonprofit world or even saw myself taking that route in life. Not because of a lack of interest, but more so due to lack of awareness about the inner workings of a nonprofit business.

However, internships, directed individual studies, and group projects in college continually pointed me in the direction of nonprofits. The more I worked with different organizations, the more I learned, and the more I knew that was the direction I wanted my career to go. I am currently working at the YMCA in my hometown (Danville, VA) as Public Relations Coordinator.

With the experiences I have had thus far in the nonprofit world, I want to share a few lessons I have learned and why it is crucial for nonprofits to improve and practice good communication.

Know your target audience. Success of an organization often  depends on others,  but even more so in the nonprofit world. Most of the time a donor is not getting anything in return, so partnerships have to be carefully developed and maintained. You are not only dealing with sponsors or donors, but also board members, volunteers, and other community organizations. All of these audiences make or break a successful nonprofit organization

Every move must be strategic. In the nonprofit world, people just jump to instantly wanting to save the world— however, small strides often make biggest impact. Completely evaluate a situation to see if someone else is already taking care of a certain need, or if partnership would be the best way to fulfill a need. Is the population of people around your area supportive of a certain need in particular? Every communication piece must be the most effective message for your audience. There isn’t a huge budget for marketing in the nonprofit world, so you have to make the most impact without huge expense.

Just because you are a non-profit doesn’t mean that some of the activity can’t make profit that is funneled back into the cause. This is called a social enterprise, and some incredible people are doing amazing things with this concept all around the world. I hadn’t heard much about this until my nonprofit management course, and it was one of my favorite sessions. I would encourage doing your own research, as I’m still learning more myself on this great way to be successful, but for instance, the YMCA members pay a monthly fee to be members. However, a very large percent of our members are scholarship recipients and come to the facility for little or no cost and are able to be apart of the club when they would otherwise not typically be able to. This scholarship program is one thing that classifies the “Y” as a nonprofit organization and not just a health club. The experience the YMCA has as a nonprofit organization makes it a great place to get involved with if you are interested in working in this field.

Creativity is key. Think outside the box, be different, be “the first”, etc. Being creative is always worth the risk. There is always a way to do something cheaper, better, and with bigger impact for the cause. And of course, always, always, always take detailed notes to improve the second time around!

Cortney Aherron

Cortney Aherron



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