Not long ago I wondered out loud what it would be like to be the communications director for a foundation planning to spend down. I asked:
What would your final annual report say? How would you describe your foundation’s accomplishments? Would you have the evidence to back up your claims? Or would those achievements rest on a pile of anecdotes destined to fade over time? Could you tell a story rich with lessons? Would your foundation be remembered for the impact it created and in a way that positively highlighted what philanthropy can accomplish when done well?”
In a post a few weeks ago, I wrote how the nonprofit sector was increasingly relying on new forms of digital distribution to “put valuable knowledge in the hands of more people who can learn from, act on, even build on it.” In writing that post, I neglected to mention IssueLab, which serves as a terrific distribution platform for all sorts of useful nonprofit research.
When we started registration for the Communications Network Fall 2009 Conference in late April, my fingers were crossed. Even though these are tough times for many, I was hopeful that we would eventually hit our attendance target.
That fear was completely unfounded. In fact, I’m struggling to find the right word to describe what happened, because none really explains the phenomenal response. In just 21 days, we sold out. And we’ve since started putting names on a waiting list.
I had the privilege last week of leading a session at the Council on Foundations annual conference on the topic When Program and Communications are Integrated, Good Things Happen for Foundations. It was heartening to see that our session attracted communications professionals as well as those who hold program and executive management positions at foundations. Those individuals responsible for grantmaking or overall foundation management were as engaged in the discussion and as supportive of the ideas being bandied about as their communications colleagues.
Do you know if your communications are working? Have you ever asked? If the answer to both questions is “no,” you’re not alone.
Few foundation communicators claim they regularly – if at all – formally evaluate their work.
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