Communication with your supporters

When you're working on a campaign it's very easy to get caught up in your own world and forget about what's going on around you. The passion can drive you, but it can also give you blinkers.

It's important to have structures in place that mean that you communicate with your members and supporters in an effective and timely manner. By keeping your members and supporters up to speed with your activities you're showing them just why they're supporting your good work, and you're letting them know how they can get involved and help out.


Newsletters

Newsletters are probably the most common way for advocacy groups to keep their members and supporters informed.

They can include many things - a list of activities, an editorial, a list of upcoming events, links to various media items, and much, much more.

Think carefully about the purpose of your organisation's newsletter, and refine its targeting. There are some fantastic newsletters out there, so have a look at them and pick the bits you think best align with your needs.


Email Newsletters

Email has seen the humble newsletter turn into an eBulletin. Whilst the two formats - hard copy and electronic - are often quite similar, there are important differences that must be taken into consideration when choosing between the two.

Email is cheaper, and therefore more disposable. The barrage of emails that people get daily means that they are less likely to be read than a physical newsletter. Physical newsletters also tend to hold more clout.

On the other hand, email is cheaper and eNewsletters can be easily forwarded, potentially amplifying the reach of your message.

A lot of people just take for granted that these days email is always the best option. Often it is. Just be sure you give it plenty of thought beforehand.

The level of production that goes into each also needs consideration. Is it worth spending hours to make your hard copy newsletter or eNewsletter look good? Or is all that is really needed just a quick reminder about the activities of your organisation or campaign?


Opening up meetings

If you're holding regular campaign meetings, why not open them up to your members, instead of just your staff? It's a great way of getting more people to help out and to widen your reach and gain access to the various skills that your members may have. (The potential downside of this is that it can be difficult to make quick decisions.)


Annual General Meeting (AGM)

Incorporated organisations are legally required to hold an AGM once a year. These provide an important opportunity to communicate key strategic measures to your members and the public, and gives them a chance to question or confirm the direction of the group.


Annual Report

Annual reports are often closely linked to the AGM. Your organisation's annual report should contain a summary of the year's activities, a record of the last year's achievements, a preview of what's planned for the next year, and a restatement of the organisation's vision. They're a good way of keeping your members and the community aware of what you're doing, where you're going, and where you've been.


Website

Increasingly, your website is people's first contact with your organisation. It's vital that it's kept as up to date as possible, and that it features all the relevant information anyone could want.

A good website also aids transparency and accessibility - both important virtues when running a campaign.


SMS

Phones are now almost permanently attached to people, so SMS is a sure-fire way to get in touch with your network quickly. SMS can be great for a quick activation of your supporter base if you need something done within the day or even the hour.


Who, What, When, Why ... will give you How

When choosing which communication methods to use you need to ask yourself "Who is my audience? What am I communicating? Why am I communicating it? When am I communicating it (i.e. what sort of time frame is needed)?"

Asking and answering these questions should answer the question of how you should communicate, at which point you can pick one or more (or all) of the above methods.

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