The type of content you create and share as a nonprofit organization is of particular importance in a field which is driven by donations and volunteers. You’ve got to focus on engaging, motivating and inspiring your readers, while always striving to give them content that’s relevant and interesting to them. Ultimately you want to convert that interest into fundraising, volunteerism, or at the very least, social buzz (which of course, may in turn convert into more funds raised or volunteers contributing time).

tortured writerAs a nonprofit communications specialist sits down to craft their latest blog post, newsletter, Tweet or status update, they must take all this into consideration while still keeping content fresh and current. No small feat: it’s no wonder that so many of them admit to only sending newsletters twice a year.

To the rescue is a terrific guest post from Victoria Michelson, which appeared recently on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog. Victoria has some no-nonsense advice for writing to the nonprofit audience (advice that all writers would do well to take, though it’s particularly apt for this audience).

Among her best pointers? Don’t get weighed down by “jargon” or “industry-speak”. Write clearly, and don’t assume your audience has all the information:

“Imagine you were going to see your doctor about an illness. During your appointment, he gave you a full diagnosis, but whatever explanation he gave was lost in a sea of medical mumbo-jumbo. This would be frustrating, wouldn’t it?

Remember that your readers will have a similar experience when they read a newsletter that drops official terms and phrases that are recognized by professionals in your industry, but not by the layman. Assume your reader might not be an expert in your field, and write accordingly. If you use a term that might not be immediately understood, take time to explain it or remove it if it’s unnecessary to the piece.”

Victoria also recommends keeping the tone conversational—this is especially important in blog and social media postings. These types of communications should feel more to your readers like a jumping off point to start a conversation about an issue that’s important to them, not a lecture or a research document that reads about as interesting as dry toast. After all, the point of online communications is often to inspire your readers to share with their own social networks, and spread the word about the good work your organization is doing. They’re only going to want to do that if what you have to say catches their fancy.

This isn’t to say that more “high-brow” writing has no place in the nonprofit world, as it most certainly does. Newsletters, for example, should strive to contain some more journalistic-style reporting, as well as any white papers or more formal documents or reports your team is publishing. Just remember, there are different types of audiences for each type of communication. What you’re putting out on social media shouldn’t necessarily be targeting the same group as the 100-page eBook on your nonprofit’s latest research project. Use common sense, and follow these and Victoria’s tips, and your communications strategy will seem like less of a chore.

Tell us about the types of communications your nonprofit team is sending out. Where do you struggle most, and what are your best tips for improving?