Developing a basic comms plan

Ruen Govinder | Hashtag Nonprofit

As a digital media consultant, one of the first questions I ask clients is how their website and social media work fits into their communications plan. More often than not, this question is met with either uncomfortable silence or just laughter.

“Communications plan? Who has time for that?”

The reality is that you can’t afford to work without a plan. This is a guarantee that you will be wasting precious time and resources. Would you consider embarking on a new programme at your NPO without careful thinking, planning and budgeting, assessing the skills and time needed, and monitoring and evaluating your progress? Think of your website and social media as long-term projects, and apply the same rules and priorities as you would apply to any other project.

This does not have to be a tedious, painful process.

At its heart, your communications plan is a simple document outlining what you’re trying to communicate, who you’re trying to communicate with, and what you would like people to do with the communication they receive. It does not need to be a lengthy document. Create a focused, simple, working document that brings everyone involved in communications on the same page.

Your communications plan should outline:

  • Your message: What are you are trying to say?
  • Your audience: Who you are talking to?
  • Your media channels: How are you communicating your message?
  • Evaluation: How will you assess if your messages have been successful?

Your message

Find your organisation’s voice and articulate your core message.

Exercise: What is your core message?

Fill in the blanks: Our organisation is the only……to……

  • What is the purpose of the messages you want to send and receive?
  • What action would you like your audience to take when they receive the message?
  • How will you communicate these messages?
  • How will you phrase your text? Do you have images or videos? Which platforms will you use?
  • How will you know if these messages are effective? 
  • What tools will you use to measure if your messages have reached the right people? Have the messages had the desired impact?

Your audience

Define your different audiences, and how you interact with them

  • Make a list of the different groups of people you want to interact with. For example, potential donors, beneficiaries, the general public, media, government
  • What information would you like to communicate to each of these groups? What information would they like to receive from you?

Your media channels

Outline your media channels and which audiences are most likely to be reached with each channel.

For example:

  • Twitter: journalists
  • Facebook: potential donors
  • Tik-Tok: youth
  • Radio: extensive reach in communities

Now that you have your message, audience, and channels, create a basic table outlining how this will work.

Message  Audience  Channel  Frequency  Details
Fundraising - we need urgent funds for our feeding scheme,

Potential Donors

Facebook  Twice a week. Post a story about people who have benefitted from the feeding programme. Detail the impact a donation would make.
  Journalists for potential media exposure Twitter Tweet regularly, mailing list once.

Write a media release targeting specific food security issues in the community. Outline how you are addressing these issues. Encourage donations to support your cause.


  • How effective are these channels at reaching these audiences?
  • What can you do to improve this?
  • What additional resources do you need to help make these improvements? 

 * We will be adding resources on developing your message, understanding your audience, and some free tools you can use for evaluation. 

Ruen Govinder | Hashtag Nonprofit

Ruen Govinder is the founder and director of Hashtag Nonprofit. She has over 20 years of experience in consulting and managing online communications and technology for the development sector. She produced a series of e-books on communications strategies for nonprofits, and has worked with clients across Africa and in the United States.

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