Strategies for Success

When in Doubt, Communicate

There are certainly circumstances and situations when “no news is good news,” but the fundraising sector isn’t one of them. To be successful, fundraisers must be, by necessity, good communicators. Good communication will mean different things to different people, but here are a few, essential characteristics.


When you have information, share it. When you need information, ask. When there’s an expectation of new information, but you have nothing to say, share that: “We still haven’t heard back from XYZ Foundation. I’ll let you know as soon as we hear something. If we don’t hear back by Friday, I’ll follow up.” There is no upside in kicking a communication can down the road.


We’ve all scanned an email, misunderstood the request and replied with some tangential response that didn’t answer the question. That’s a mistake. It happens. But we never want to intentionally not answer or be vague to avoid clarity. We should always respond politely and professionally: To be unclear, is to be unkind. Fundraisers often say, “Communication conveys appreciation.” That is so true. Whether it’s giving donors a complete picture of a nonprofit’s need or sharing the organization’s big wins in a monthly newsletter, pro-active, ongoing communication – clear and complete – builds trust over time.


As the saying goes, “If I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” But conciseness is not a stand-alone virtue. Only when your motivation is clarity, and you’re committed to giving the complete picture – good, bad or mixed bag – is conciseness beneficial.

A good rule of thumb: When you want to say a lot about a thing, keep it brief. When you’d rather not saying anything at all, lay it out there. Bottom line: When in doubt, communicate.

Denise Rhoades
Denise Rhoades

Vice President of Communications

St. Augustine, Fla.

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