In Southern philanthropy, communication is key to changing hearts and minds

During the week of the conclusion to an incredibly divisive election cycle, some of the most influential changemakers in Southern philanthropy have come together to learn, share and focus on the future of philanthropy at the Southeastern Council of Foundations annual meeting in Amelia Island, Fla.

While cynicism of government and corporations may be at an all-time high, more than 75 percent of Americans trust social-sector organizations and believe they are forces for accelerating change and doing good in our communities. From poverty and education to the opiate epidemic and mental health, grantmakers in the South are tackling tough issues.

One of the keys to success? Getting serious about communication to change hearts and minds and mobilize support.

According to a new Southern Trends Report developed by The Foundation Center in partnership with the Southeastern Council of Foundations, one of the leading causes of grant-funded project failure is inadequate capacity of the recipient organization. The capacity conversation has been going on for years and almost always includes the ability to not only communicate philanthropic work but also to do so according to a strategy that motivates and persuades people to action. 

It takes time, energy and resources to do this, and it’s something more and more funders are considering as part of the grantmaking process to help give organizations the tools for success.  

Here are the top three ways funders can invest in communications during the grantmaking process:

  1. Invest in infrastructure – While some nonprofits may have staff skilled in communications strategy, many organizations do not have the technical ability to develop effective online platforms and communications channels to share and engage with people they are trying to help. Funders can provide resources to ensure communications implementation doesn’t fall flat.  
  2. Provide value beyond the check – Most funders don’t enjoy the “ATM mentality” that often follows grantmaking practices. Foundations have the opportunity to demonstrate value beyond the check by providing communications expertise for nonprofits through consultants and communications partners who can work with nonprofits throughout the life of the grant implementation.  
  3. Create opportunities for professional development – Group training is an effective way to boost nonprofit communications acumen. Foundations can provide best-in-class speakers to conduct professional development for nonprofit staff in areas like strategy, social media, branding, content marketing, public relations and more.

Have other ideas about how funders can help grantees succeed through communications? Share them with us here or on Twitter @MagnifyGood.


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