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Communications Matters: Ready for the Great Leap Forward?

Guest Post: David Brotherton and Cynthia Scheiderer

Most members of the Communications Network believe that communications is an important lever for positive social change…but we have historically done a poor job of proving it. That’s why the Network, in partnership with Brotherton Strategies, is launching a project designed to show what success looks like when integrated communication works in foundations and nonprofits.

Brotherton Headshot 2

David Brotherton

The premise is pretty simple: By learning what’s effective and why, we can help members make a stronger case for using communications strategically. And by sharing examples of those successes across – and beyond – the Network, we can increase the number of organizations in the independent sector using smart communication to improve lives. Over the next six to nine months, we will attempt to tackle the following questions:

  • What is our shared definition of “effective communications”?
  • What are the attitudes of executive-level leaders and program staff toward communications?
  • What motivates them to think of communications as an essential strategy for achieving their goals? Or if they don’t, why don’t they?
  • How can we persuade skeptical decision makers that communication matters?
  • And how can we make our learnings actionable for the entire sector, beyond the usual “choir” of communications professionals alone?

Cynthia Scheiderer

This inquiry isn’t just an academic exercise; it’s actually quite personal to us. We’ve wrestled directly with these questions for more than a decade now – as communication leaders working inside foundations, as consultants to the field and as Network members on both sides of the fence.

We look forward to engaging the field to discover exemplars, best practices, great ideas, creative solutions and (hopefully) some models to help us make the case.

To make this great leap forward, however, we’re going to need you. This project is about listening and learning. We will need your success stories, your lessons learned, your ideas and your observations.

If you are interested in getting involved, or have ideas that might help inform our inquiry, please send an email to

Watch this space for updates on the project, thorny questions to chime in on and ways to help. We look forward to your input and to sharing the learning from this project with all of you. Let’s jump in.

David Brotherton and Cynthia Scheiderer are Seattle-based communications consultants and the co-authors of Come On In, The Water’s Fine, an analysis of the philanthropy sector’s engagement with social media.


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