Effectively Communicating with your Stakeholders
Do you communicate effectively with your stakeholders? Are your communications targeted, unique, and relational? Such communication keeps your stakeholders engaged with your organization!
Tip #1: Prepare!
Stakeholders – program staff, clients, funders, volunteers, and board members – have varied needs, so do your homework! Brainstorm about who your stakeholders are, what information they need, and when they need it. One of your program recipients probably doesn’t need to know your organization’s revenue, but they probably want to know how changes in revenue affect the services that they can access. Think through what key messages you want to share with each group of stakeholders, keeping in mind what they will do with this information.
Next, focus on how you will communicate. Communication platforms are the railroad tracks to your information train – if you choose a mismatching platform, your messages will not reach their destination. So, think about logistics. If your stakeholders include many low-income individuals without access to computers or an internet connection, Zoom and Google Slides may not be the best way to communicate. Face-to-face communication helps establish relationships, but words are fleeting. Consider following up a verbal conversation with a short document that reiterates your key points for later reference.
Tip #2: Talk WITH your stakeholders, not TO them
Talking TO your public, program recipients, nonprofit staff, or funders immediately establishes a one-way encounter – you do the talking, and they do the listening. This style does not allow for stakeholder engagement and processing of your information. Rather, focus on a dialogue; a two-way conversation.
Don’t forget active listening. Use your qualitative interview skills for communication with your stakeholders. As Dr. Annette Shtivelband wrote, “Your more important role is as the listener. Be an active listener — make eye contact and nod. Say, ‘Tell me more’ or ‘What I hear you saying is…’ to reflect that you’re paying attention. Take notes to show you’re listening…” Establish trust by talking less and listening more.
Tip #3: Build relationships.
Effective communication helps you connect with your stakeholders and establish vital, lasting relationships. Clearly establish your common ground before talking with your stakeholder groups and circle back to the common ground when needed. Thankfully, you already have a common ground with your stakeholders: your organization! Another one of the 10 Commandments of Communication is to approach these conversations with openness and transparency. The same ways you communicate and connect with friends will likely work with your stakeholders.
Ready, Set, Start!
Ready to start communicating with your stakeholders? The Ontario Nonprofit Network suggests that asking these internal questions makes a great starting point:
- What are we really trying to learn? How will this learning lead to action?
- How can we help each other learn?
- Is evaluation the right approach? If so, what kind?
- Who is going to do what?
- How will we communicate?
Want to communicate more?
Together, these tips will help set you up for success when communicating with your organization’s stakeholders. Be sure to look at some of the resources below. You can also contact Research Evaluation Consulting for a free 30-minute consultation call to discuss how we might be able to partner with you in communicating your impact to stakeholders!
Bridier, N. (2018). SEA PD Week: Putting the Pieces Together: Effective Stakeholder Communication. American Evaluation Association. Link: https://aea365.org/blog/sea-pd-week-putting-the-pieces-together-effective-stakeholder-communication-by-nancy-bridier/
Bridier, N. (2018). SEA PD Week: Putting the Pieces Together: Effective Stakeholder Communication. American Evaluation Association. Link.
Johnson, J. (2018). SEA PD Week: Enhancing Data Collection Through Effective Stakeholder Relationships. American Evaluation Association. Link: https://aea365.org/blog/sea-pd-week-enhancing-data-collection-through-effective-stakeholder-relationships-by-jennifer-johnson/
MissionBox. (2020). Drafting a Nonprofit Communications Strategy. MissionBox Global. Link: https://www.missionbox.com/article/24/drafting-a-nonprofit-communications-strategy
Mohan, R. (2020). RT&C Week: Building Trust, an Essential Activity for Evaluators. American Evaluation Association. Link: https://aea365.org/blog/rtc-week-building-trust-an-essential-activity-for-evaluators-by-rakesh-mohan/
Pearlman. (2020). COVID-19 Pandemic Highlights Need for Stakeholders to Be Considered. American Bar Association. Link: https://businesslawtoday.org/2020/04/covid-19-pandemic-highlights-need-stakeholders-considered/
Ontario Nonprofit Network. (2016). Learning Together: Five Important Discussion Questions to Make Evaluation Useful. Ontario Nonprofit Network. Link: https://nonprofitresources.ca/resource-library/learning-together-five-important-discussion-questions-to-make-evaluation-useful/
Rowland, M. (2019). The 10 commandments of stakeholder engagement. The Association for Project Management. Link: https://www.apm.org.uk/blog/the-10-commandments-of-stakeholder-engagement
Shtivelband. (2018). Tips for Conducting Qualitative Interviews. Research Evaluation Consulting. Link: www.researchevaluationconsulting.com/tips-conducting-qualitative-interviews/