Crisis? Communicate!

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Clear, strategic communication has always been the magic ingredient that promotes strong program implementation, good working relationships, and effective nonprofit management. But when a crisis crashes in and disrupts any notion of business-as-usual, the imperative for communication escalates at the same trajectory as the disruption. Don’t go quiet with panic or let the huge details of change management side-line communications. Remember, the words communication and community stem from the same root. To maintain the community within your organization, and your organization’s connection to the community it serves, reach out, inform, and support.


If your organization doesn’t have a communications officer, consider temporarily rearranging duties to designate a point person for the work. It’s that important. Here are some ideas for maintaining communications and community in a time of upheaval and disruption.


Support Staff Members – Stay connected. Schedule regular online or phone conference check-ins. Provide staff members with instructions about the work they should complete and help them juggle home and work demands. For example, you may arrange meetings to coincide with their children’s nap time or move to evening meetings when children will be in bed. Stress worker safety, provide emotional support, and offer financial or other tangible assistance as possible.


Connect with Those You Serve – Disseminate clear information about what services you’ll be able to maintain and explain how those services will be delivered. If possible, speak with people by phone to answer questions and provide reassurance that you’ll continue to help them in every way possible.

Tell beneficiaries what to do if they find themselves in crisis. Many are likely to be frantic with concern. Be patient and clear.


Connect with Other Organizations – Use online or phone conferencing to connect with partner organizations and explore ways to help each other and the community during the disruption. Understanding the circumstances of collaborating organizations will encourage resource sharing and allow you to more comprehensively assist your clients.


Stay alert and listen closely. Good communication is responsive and sensitive to changing conditions. This is definitely not a situation in which you can lay out one good message and call it done.

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