Quick Shot: 3 Communication Tips for Nonprofit Professionals

By Kevin Bryant, Director of Client Partnership

I once had a very uncomfortable phone call with James Brown, “the Godfather of Soul.”  Known for songs like “Get Up Offa That Thing” and “I Got You,” he was an incredible performer, but our conversation was a challenge. After asking him to repeat something a third time, my response was simply to mumble “uh-huh” and move on. 

Now this reference may be meant for Boomers, but all can agree: diction, pronunciation and enunciation are keys to effectively exchanging ideas and building relationships. 

Although these tools are essential, the following communication tips for nonprofit professionals can help take your interactions to the next level. 

Tip #1: Engage Brain Before Putting Mouth in Gear

As a life-long communicator, this is probably my biggest stumbling/stuttering block.  Leading a conversation, or staying in front of the dialogue, may make you believe you are in control, it’s not always the best way to interact. 

Whether you’re interacting with a donor, or a colleague on your nonprofit team, answering or responding too quickly, without considering others’ viewpoints, can cause misunderstanding or missed opportunities. It’s certainly appropriate to pause, to contemplate. 

Applying this communication tip for nonprofit professionals simply means slowing down. Not everyone will think you have an unhurried, “Southern drawl” like me; they’ll see you as curious and attentive to their tone, style and needs. 

Tip #2: Defense Is Often the Best Offense

You may believe that “making your case” will drive a conversational outcome. However, allowing others to express themselves first can lead them to their own personal conclusion. 

By asking questions, you not only confirm what someone is telling you and establish ownership of a topic, but you also gain great information to position your points and counterpoints. Listening provides you with clarification, and it suggests courtesy, compassion and interest. A leading question may be the first spoken word, but it truly becomes a roadmap to a successful outcome. 

Tip #3: Be Prepared, Not Anxious

In the days of 30-minute or 1-hour Zoom schedules, the clock is ticking and efficiency is our friend. Pre-planning a conversation is what keeps progress moving and time effective. Although too much structure takes away personality and camaraderie, developing goals and anticipated outcomes in meetings and conversations will keep focus and priority. 

Preparation is a great objective, but be careful not to bring baggage or false pre-judgments into the mix. We often anticipate people’s reactions based on feelings or scenarios that we haven’t confirmed to be true. This can sometimes create anxieties about conversations that actually “hijack” the content and purpose. 

Reading the room is as important as studying the playbook of communication tips for nonprofit professionals. Have a plan, but be ready to listen, ask, pause and then respond.  

Making Music Together 

James Brown was a pretty amazing entrepreneur for his time and even more, had 17 Number One Hits on the R&B Charts. Our intention should always be to make beautiful music together in our interactions with others… to “Get on the Good Foot,” so to speak.  

Take these communication tips for nonprofit professionals with you into your next conversation, and see what harmonies you make in your interactions with others! I’d love to hear how you apply these tips and any questions you have – please feel free to email me with your thoughts.

Check out last week’s Quick Shot – 8 Way to Market Your Nonprofit Thrift Store

  • Kevin Bryant

    Kevin Bryant, Director of Client Partnership

    Internationally recognized as an ECHO and ADDY Award winning creative talent, Kevin is a fundraising veteran with clients including; The North American Mission Board, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Precept and Guidepost Ministries, and Samaritan’s Purse. Having worked on both the agency and client side, he’s dedicated to building a bridge between the two to make programs and partnerships successful.

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