As a firm that serves the nonprofit world, we’re hearing about classes canceled, study abroad students sent home, annual conferences shelved. Behind these announcements are major disappointments — and, often, major challenges in terms of funding or simply being heard above the din. Yet while coronavirus is throwing a wrench in near-term plans, this is a good time to invest in the long-term relationships that matter most.
Below are a few tips on continuing to reach your constituents during these anxious times.
1. Keep communications about current events brief and clear. It’s not necessary to wax poetic or to link your mission to the news. Stick to what’s on your audiences’ minds. Let stakeholders know that your website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed will be the site of updated news, and save blanket emails for significant changes to operations.
2. Make sure your constituents feel heard. Respond to the questions and concerns you’re hearing through email, on your website, or on social media. Create FAQs segmented by your audiences’ concerns on important topics — the University of Washington’s response provides a good example.
3. Strengthen your online communities. A higher education institution might invite community members to attend a class that’s being held remotely or plan a special virtual campus tour for admitted students. On social media, you can engage your followers by spreading good information with humor when appropriate — take this great example from the Shakespeare Theatre Company. It’s also a good time to introduce accessibility best practices on social media as you widen your outreach.
Invest in the relationships that will pay off when life returns to normal (hopefully, soon), and take this chance to adapt your institutional culture for flexibility when the next event comes along. We hope that the solutions you establish during this challenge will continue to serve you well, long after it has passed!