How Does Your Coalition Communicate with Stakeholders?

Have you ever had low turnout at a coalition meeting? Have you ever wondered why your coalition gets such low community involvement?

We know that, overwhelmingly, adults in our communities support the work our coalitions do – but why are more people not involved in our work?

It is not our message that is the problem, it is the way coalitions communicate with stakeholders that is not working.

Every coalition I have been involved with over the last 15 years has used email as the primary source of communication. When there is a meeting, you get an email. When there is an event, the coalition sends out an email. Any announcements the coalition makes – yep more emails.

For the most part, studies on email open rates are very consistent. Only 25% of people open emails from non-profits and community based organizations and if you include a link or an attachment, only 2.8 % of people on average are going to click or open the attachment¹. The good news is that this is really good. Most retail or advertising open rates are much lower.

So the question is, if only 25% of people even open your emails, why are you using email as your primary method of communicating? Should your coalition stop using email? ABSOLUTLY NOT! We will get back to what to do in a minute.

Another coalition favorite is to make flyers or posters. Did you know that flyers have about a 1% rate of being acted on? That means if you hand out 100 flyers for an event and are actually able to get them into someone’s hand, you will probably get 1 person to show up to your event. Keep in mind these are only flyers that make it into someone’s hand. Flyers that get thrown away by the school secretary you dropped them off with or are left sitting on the coffee shop counter don’t even count. The bad news is that posters have less of an impact. Does this means coalitions should not ever hand out flyers or hang posters? Keep reading, all your answers are below.

What is the right way to communicate to your stakeholders?

The truth is that there is no one way to communicate with everyone. Most studies have shown that text messaging is most people ages 18-49 years olds’ primary way of communicating. Receiving a call on a cell phone and email were tied in second with messaging on social media not far behind. If you want to communicate with stakeholders in your community, you have to use THEIR PREFERRED METHOD OF COMMUNICATION- NOT YOURS! To be effective you have to use multiple ways of communicating. A combination of email, texting, social media and phone calls should be incorporated into your communication strategy.

Next Steps

  1. Do a communicating and messaging assessment.
  • What ways is your coalition using for internal and external communication?
  • What communication tools are you using for internal and external communication?
  1. What are your communication goals? Here is a hint – they should line up and support your coalitions goals.

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Kris Martin owns Limerent Communications and has spent the last 15 years working on communication strategy for youth, young adults and stakeholders in their lives. If this article interests you, you can find more by signing up for the Limerent Community Coalition Messaging Newsletter or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


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