From selecting the right digital tools to getting your messaging right, we find out how charities can best deploy effective internal communications
Effective communication amongst staff and volunteers is a key concern for charities, especially amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While communicating effectively with beneficiaries, donors and other stakeholders is important, so too is conveying charity’s messaging, updates and campaign details to the charity’s workers themselves.
Clear and effective internal communications are also vital for successful home working – with teams increasingly working remotely or under blended working arrangements between home and office.
Here we will look at how charities can best communicate with staff and volunteers using software and online resources available.
To effectively communicate with staff, charities need a communications system that allows information and feedback to flow freely.
This needs to be a place where online newsletters, videos and documents can be stored and disseminated in one place. Staff and leaders also need to be able to communicate through online conferences, chat rooms and other tools for feedback.
Communication is simpler when using a single platform. This way, messaging can be targeted to different departments and teams, whilst allowing other stakeholders to access key information when they need to. Engagement and participation rates in conversations and internal communications can also be made simpler.
Microsoft Teams is among the most popular platforms for international communications. The solution caters for communication with staff and volunteers using a range of text, voice and video capabilities.
This can be fine-tuned even further so that Microsoft Teams can allow staff to use it as an external communications tool as well.
Teams Voice is a product from charity communications organisation Class Networks. This allows staff to make and receive external calls through Microsoft Teams. This can replace charity’s existing phone system, saving time and money.
Having a robust external communications strategy is commonplace among charities. This lays out charities’ messaging and how that should be conveyed. It also makes sure that all communications are conducted ethically and in line with the organisation’s values. A successful external communications strategy will be based around a clear understanding of your audience, and will be tailored to speak to them in as effective a manner as possible.
The same level of planning needs to be applied to international communications. This needs to look at the capabilities of a platform such as Microsoft Teams and the type of content that should be shared with staff.
Which teams do you want to communicate information with? How should communications be targeted? What sort of participation from staff and volunteers does the charity require for different announcements?
A robust internal communications strategy should also specify the goals the charity wants to achieve. This should focus on communication with staff and volunteers and how information can be shared or cascaded through the organisation, either digitally or through face-to-face meetings.
An internal communications strategy also needs to address privacy and security issues as well as governance and other legal compliance. Any information that staff are not allowed to disclose needs to be clearly spelled out in order to protect privacy.
A VPN can help ensure an internal communications system is secure. This is a software tool that creates a “tunnel” between staff and volunteer’s devices and computers at home, and the charity in the office. Information conveyed is encrypted before it leaves and decrypted when it arrives. This gives a charity peace of mind that sensitive internal communications is not being intercepted.
In addition, there could be copyright issues by sharing information from media sources within an internal communications network. As we recently explored, sharing links from the media with fellow charity workers is a grey area. The Newspaper Licencing Authority advises charities to obtain a licence, but this is largely based on protecting the media outlet in case colleagues pass on content to others.
Internal communications are vital to celebrating staff and their achievements. This helps tell office staff and charity leaders about the frontline work that charity staff and volunteers are carrying out.
By trumpeting success within internal communications, staff can feel valued and supported in their work and know that their efforts are being recognised. This is particularly important amid the COVID-19 pandemic when charities are having to take difficult decisions around redundancies and other cost-cutting measures.
The lines between internal and external communications can be blurred, with social media becoming ever more important to our lives. Savvy charity leaders can effectively use external communications platforms such as Twitter to communicate to staff, as well as supporters and potential donors.
This can give internal messaging greater weight by giving staff a glowing public endorsement.
For example Kate Collins, the Chief Executive of the Teenage Cancer Trust, was named an overall winner in the Social CEO’s award scheme, to recognise charity leaders who excel on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. She won the award for her use of social media to motivate her staff by flagging up their achievements.
The same measure applies across external and internal communications – be authentic.
Charity leaders that show their human side on internal communications will be far more likely to garner support among workers.
This is particularly the case amid the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, when charity leaders often have to deliver bad news around cuts.
One to do this is Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK who took part in a Zoom meeting with staff to thank them for their work and inform them of redundancies.
“At the end of the video, it fell to me to say something on behalf of the staff, but I struggled to get my words out through the tears,” Peters said.
“They were tears of pride at being the leader of such an amazing group of people. But they have also tinged the sadness of knowing the devastating impact that the cancellation of fundraising events and the economic downturn were already having on our finances.”