Ballot Issues and the Non-Profit Organization Manager

Ballot Issues and the Non-Profit Organization Manager

Think about the position of a not-for-profit organization in a community considering a ballot issue to raise taxes (school bond issue, public facility levy, local option tax). The organization probably has members on both sides of the issue. Some may just be against tax increases of any kind. Others may benefit directly or indirectly in some way – they may be a construction contractor or perhaps a financial institution providing resources for a project. There are any number of possibilities. What should they do if asked to express an opinion on the subject?

Choosing Sides or Choosing Silence

Choosing sides, and overtly favoring or opposing a ballot is probably not the right direction to go. Someone is sure to be unhappy – and that’s just not a good place to be for an organization dependent on member dues, investments or charitable contributions. Not to mention, certain not-for-profit organizations can’t take sides without jeopardizing status with the Internal Revenue Service.

Remaining silent doesn’t seem constructive either. A community organization such as a local development group should care about tax policy, public budgets and generally the business climate in their respective communities. “No comment” just doesn’t work.

Staying Neutral While Getting Involved

In most cases the right answer is help inform their members and contributors, the community and voters of the factors to consider when making their decision in the voting place. For example, a reasonable stance for any economic develop organization is to support a tax policy that is stable, predictable and comparable to neighboring communities. The conventional wisdom would be that a tax policy that is in the range of “normal” isn’t going to affect business location decisions, and the community will likely have enough resources to provide reasonable levels of service.

Non-profit organizations can also bring their knowledge about an issue to the table and share information about factors that might affect policy choices. Again, using the economic development organization as an example, this might include things like the ratio of commercial to residential property in a community, the comparative density of development, the cultural and social characteristics of the community, or the comparative level of average household incomes. Helping people understand facts and context can simply contribute to more informed decision making. And broadly speaking, shouldn’t everyone work to foster civil community engagement?

Walking the Line

Walking the line between advocacy and opposition can be a tricky path to follow, and keeping information balanced and factual is not easy. Silence is the easy option, but not necessarily the right one. If you find yourself at this trailhead, our team has the background and experience to help you navigate safely.

Emergency Communications Planning: Reducing Moments of Panic

Emergency Communications Planning: Reducing Moments of Panic

While many issues tend arise when we are least prepared to deal with them, organizations with clear crisis communications plans are in positions better suited for success. In moments of panic, business leaders can often make decisions on a whim, which may reflect poorly on their organization. Creating a crisis communication plan ensures that your entire organization is prepared to deal with communicating with your clients, customers and colleagues when a critical issue arises. Communicating the plan to your entire team and confirming it is well-understood among employees is equally important as the plan itself.

If you’re company is in the not-so-unique position of being without a crisis communication plan, don’t stress. Getting started is as simple as following these six steps.

1. Create a List of Emergency Scenarios

A great place to being is by creating a list of crisis scenarios that would require communications should they occur. Try to think about each and every aspect of your business and how each crisis scenario would impact the day-to-day operations of your customers, clients and employees. For example, is your website down? Is your payment system malfunctioning? Has your office lost electricity? All of these things have an impact on your customers and clients, and you should be prepared to keep them informed to avoid chaos.

2. Determine How You Will Communicate

Every organization has a unique audience. Think about how you would best reach that audience when something goes wrong. Some scenarios may require an email while others may only require a simple message on the home page of your website. Other scenarios may require all of the above. For example, if you are a retail establishment or restaurant facing a loss of power at your location, consider social media as being a possible tool to spread word to current and potential customers. Alternatively, if your organization focuses on web development and has suffered a bug that needs fixing, perhaps a website disclaimer or digital newsletter push would be most effective for reaching your client base. However you tend to communicate with your audience on the best of days is likely going to be the same method to communicate with your audience in a time of crisis. In some instances, you may choose to communicate on more than one channel.

3. Write Copy for Each Scenario and Communications Channel

Now that you have identified all issues, both minor and major, you need to determine what the message says. Depending on which communications channels you use, you may choose to alter your message slightly between channels. Work to produce copy that is clear, concise and appropriate for the chosen communication channel(s), and be sure to avoid further inconveniencing or confusing the audience.  Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think through all of the questions they might have and try to address those questions in your messaging.

4. Review the Copy With Your Entire Team

Once you have prepared copy for each scenario, give your team with ample time to review and provide feedback. Members of your team may have a unique perspective to share and may be able to point out additional details that should be included in the messaging. Taking time for this step will ensure that all the important details are covered and that all team members understand the messaging being provided to customers. Making sure the entire team is providing the same consistent message throughout the duration of the “crisis” is vital to successfully getting through it.

5. Create a Templated Guide With Each Scenario and the Associated Messaging

If you plan to use your bulk email service to send out crisis notices, take the time to prepare a draft for each scenario in your system. With the drafts already created, it is simple for a team member to push send on a predetermined email your audience. For other communications channels, such as social media, prepare a simple document that outlines the message for each scenario so that each message can simply be copied, pasted and posted. Your team will be grateful for anything that makes it easier to distribute out a timely message in a time of need.

6. Create a Matrix for Each Scenario

If your company has a lot of scenarios, types of customers and varied communications methods, it may be helpful to create a matrix to outline each scenario and determine who will receive the message, which communications channels will be used to communicate, and how soon and how often communications should occur. This is yet another way to keep your team on the same page and avoid panic when a crisis arises. A matrix can serve as a map so that no decisions are made in a panic.

Creating a crisis communications plan takes collaboration and critical thinking skills. Depending on the complexity of your business, the process to create a plan can be time-consuming and requires careful attention to detail to ensure each component is clear, concise and easily implemented, making dealing with the crisis less cumbersome. The marketing team at Enterprise Iowa has the ability to create a detailed and efficient crisis communication plan to encompass all aspects of your business, ensuring your company is thoroughly prepared to communicate like a pro even in times of crises. Contact us to set up an appointment to discuss devising a unique crisis communication plan for your business.