GONE GLOBAL: Keith Henja on Nonprofits

The final breakout session of the day was divided into crisis communications and nonprofits. Keith Henja is the communications officer at Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that brings free musical instruments and music instruction to lower funded public school children.

“One guiding objective for all that a nonprofit does is its mission statement,” Henja said. If you truly believe in your organization, it’s mission statement becomes your own.

A mission statement is made up of the what and why about your organization. You need to be able to answer these questions comfortably and confidently.

“No matter message or audience,” Henja said, “your message needs to be sticky.” A sticky message is one that is memorable long after you’ve delivered it. We don’t always have something tangible to share but as communications professionals, we learn to share our stories with our words.

Henja shared a few of his own sticky messages about working in nonprofits:

  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Utilize people you serve to be your spokespeople.
  • You are always a spokesperson.
  • Focus on one key statistic that connects to a story, analogy or concrete detail. Lead with a story and then follow with the statistic.
  • Appeal to the heart before you appeal to the brain. Your audience will connect one story to the mass.
  • People would rather support an individual than a course or a group.
  • Find the unique story to inspire your audience.

He also shared some tips for media relations:

  • Pick up the phone
  • Let the reporter know when to arrive.
  • Line up interviews ahead of time.
  • Secure a location to film or take photos.
  • Provide an angle to your story. – Problem, solution, timeliness, newsworthiness
  • Offer to fact check a story.
  • Print talking points for potential interviewees.
  • Respect a reporter’s time by doing as much of their work as possible.

The final piece of advice Henja gave was to relate to donors through stewardship. This is the most important concept in a nonprofit. It is essential to build an authentic relationship with donors.

“Stewardship is finding creative ways to say thank you,” he said. Little Kids Rock, for example, sends a handwritten letter from a kid with every tax acknowledgement letter they send.

Henja’s passion throughout his entire presentation made me really see the appeal to nonprofit work, something I had never considered before. If my theme park dream doesn’t pan out, nonprofit might be the way to go.

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