At Pieces, we want to help community organizations to best serve their missions and build a happier and healthier world, and we think one of the easiest ways to do this is by collaborating with your local community. We work with a range of different clients – from universities to food banks – and this variety of partners has given us insight into some of the challenges that nonprofits face.
Creating strong referral networks is a big task, and it starts with diving into your messaging to make sure people understand exactly what your organization achieves. Typically when we ask someone who works at a nonprofit what they do, the intent behind the question is less about their mission, and really about: How? As in, how can a vulnerable population be supported by the mission that you’re serving?
By understanding the services your organization is providing to the community, and communicating that service clearly, you can immediately start to increase quality referrals. So, how do you market your program in a clear and concise manner?
Ask yourself these questions:
- What services does your nonprofit provide?
- When and where can clients access these resources? Specifically, what are your operating hours and where are you? Are all resources accessed at that location? Or somewhere else?
- Who is eligible? Who are you serving? Is it children, women, the homeless population? Get specific in terms of who you actually open your services to.
In the process of answering these questions, here are some tips for getting the answers you need to build a stronger referral network.
1. Think like an outsider
When you go through your program description, approach it as if you were an outsider with little to no knowledge of your institution. Avoid internal jargon and acronyms that can be confusing for your partners and clients. Don’t name things after your grant funders, although you can always reference them somewhere else in the description. If someone walked in with no concept of what you do, how would you distill your message into a description that makes it easy to understand in five minutes or less? Go back to the who, what, when, and where framework: your description should answer all of these questions clearly and succinctly.
When we kick off an implementation, we like for our organizations to write clear program descriptions. When looking at your organization’s website, you want to see an “About Us” page that describes what programs your organization offers. Simplify what these programs entail. Are you offering job training classes? When and where is your food pantry open? These seem like basic questions, but you might be surprised how few organizations are explicit about what they do, where they do it, and how the population they serve can take advantage of their programming.
2. Go ahead, Google yourself
Once you’ve revamped your description, it’s time to make sure your messaging is consistent. Your mission may be out there, but are your programs and services clearly outlined as well?
Go out into the world of the internet to understand where your message is residing and whether or not you’re sending mixed messages. See what comes up when you Google search your organization name. If your information is correct on your website and Facebook pages, Google’s listings will eventually update to reflect that information. Keep your house clean and the message will resonate.
3. Leverage the right tools
Try using a free online social scheduler like Hootsuite or Buffer to make it easy to disseminate and coordinate your messaging on different social media channels, like Facebook and Twitter, from one platform. It makes it much easier to keep your content consistent without having to log in and out of different channels.
In your content, make sure your programs and services are described in detail like on your website. For instance, if you run a food pantry at a church, are the two pages tied together – does the church website list when the food pantry is open and vice versa on your Facebook page?
Ultimately, the goal of your program marketing is to make it easier for clients and patients to navigate to the proper services, saving everyone time and money.
Check out this blog for more tools and tips on building a strong referral program. To learn more about Pieces Connect and our other tools that can help your organization work smarter, get in touch with our team