How to Create an Effective Communications Plan for Businesses and Non-Profits


Most businesses and non-profits these days operate on tight budgets, require more staff, or rely on volunteers.  Several times throughout the year non-profits will ask the public for money through radio-thons, gala events, or other fundraising projects. Businesses will run customer appreciation events or online contests to draw people in. Now more than ever these organizations need communications plans that help them connect people with their products and services. But where do they start?  

To get it right, there are a few things that have to happen.

How to Create an Effective Communications Plan

  1. Determine your objectives. What do you want to achieve? Increase your donors or customers? Grow your email list? Align with corporate strategic objectives?
  2. Define your positioning statement. What makes you unique? Why should customers buy from you? Donors donate? This statement will clarify how you’re different, better,  and why.  
  3. Identify your target audience – Get to know your audience. All too often people cast a wide net and connect peripherally.  This info will help you be more targeted.
  4. Set a goal. Be specific about what you want to happen. For example: Raise 10% more money or increase volunteers by 2%.
  5. Identify your approach and tools. Which platforms will you use and how will you reach your target audiences? Facebook? Email? Video? Direct mail? Email? Remember: know your target audience before you start to work on this otherwise you could use an approach that misses your audience entirely.  
  6. Develop your messaging. Create clear, key messages. Later, these can be shared with your leadership team, staff, or volunteers  as everyone is your ambassador.
  7. Set a timeline. Know what you want to do and when; who will be responsible for each element in your plan. This is important so people are clear on ownership and deadlines.
  8. Set a budget. Your budget will influence your approach and the tools you use.
  9. Set Targets.  All too often business run communications and marketing tactics and never measure effectiveness. Metrics are key to knowing if you’re successful, or simply put – making or losing money.

If you don’t know how to develop a communications plan, hire a professional for a short term or long term contract. If you’re running a non-profit, there are many communications and PR professionals looking for volunteer opportunities but look for more experienced people to develop the plan. Whatever you do don’t wait. You run the risk of your competition getting the dollars and customers you’re chasing.

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