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Lessons on the intersection between PR, advocacy and fundraising

We recently completed a major piece of work with Habitat for Humanity NZ, a national organisation with seven regional affiliate offices.  It required a communications strategy that would intersect with its fundraising and advocacy plans, while providing a roadmap to build the organisation’s reputation and relationships.  

Heather led this work, as she knows the organisation well from serving on the board of the Habitat for Humanity Central affiliate for 20 years and three years on the national board. 

Here are a few lessons other organisations can take away from this complex strategy development project: 

Don’t muddle the picture 

If you are working in an organisation that has a strategic fundraising arm and is also involved in advocacy, it is difficult to remain focused on setting goals, developing messaging and determining actions in the PR space alone.   

Remember that your PR goals should home in on objectives related to your organisation’s reputation and its relationships with its key publics.  Fundraising goals are focused on getting money in the door – that is not a PR goal.  While advocacy goals are often very narrow, such as raising awareness of a key piece of legislation and lobbying for change.  It might help your planning to clearly lay out your top goals in each of the three area, to see how they differentiate and also complement each other. 

Key messages are the same.  “Donate today” and “Rental laws need changed” are not messages that belong in your PR strategy.  However, your high-level PR messaging will serve to build trust and open doors for people to listen to you and work with you.  When you achieve your reputation and relationship goals, it becomes easier to also achieve your fundraising and advocacy work. 

Involve others 

If you are a national organisation or large corporate, ensure you involve key people from throughout the organisation in your PR planning process.  This ensures you bring different perspectives and experiences to the table.   

You can’t develop strategy for a complex organisation by yourself in a silo.  It’s imperative to ask lots of questions and learn from key people who are ‘doing the work’ at the grassroots and who also understand the ambitions and imperatives of the organisation as a whole. 

It’s also important to keep checking in with key people throughout the strategy development process.  Don’t assume the first draft of the PR plan will be the final.  Keep talking and running ideas by key people to inform the process along the way. 

Keep it simple 

The best strategies are ones your whole team - and board -  can buy into, remember and easily incorporate into their everyday business and governance actions.   

With Habitat, we broke the strategy down into three memorable phrases and attached those to a simple graphic.  We also demonstrated in the strategy document how the PR strategy will work alongside the fundraising and advocacy strategies to complement and amplify their effect.  Showing examples of the PR strategy ‘in action’ helped to clarify exactly how the intersection between the three disciplines would work in practice. 

Thanks to our client, Habitat for Humanity NZ for allowing us to help with this work and to share our learnings.