I’m saddened when great nonprofits make catastrophic mistakes because they don’t realize that the world around them has fundamentally shifted. Suddenly there is a crisis and everyone is doing damage control.

So often we don’t understand that trying to be an institutional source of truth today is doomed. No one blindly trusts institutions anymore. And everyone’s opinion can be fact. A startling study recently looked at online information about vaccination and found that facts from a credible institution carried the same weight with people as anonymous internet comments.


How can nonprofits avoid a communications crisis? Here are three thoughts that also work as rescue remedies.

  1. Always tell the truth. Nonprofit communication is easy because all you need to do is tell compelling stories about what you do every day to make the world a better place. You hide nothing, because sharing your mistakes with friends builds the trust that builds stronger friendships. Being authentic is easy when it’s the truth.
  2. Always tell the truth. Nonprofits have to tell their stories of authentic truth, actually share them, not keep reality hidden behind some institutional wall of “trusted expert” that’s a fantasy to everyone else. Tell the real story: share your hopes, struggles and victories and do it in as personable a way as you can. People trust other people if they trust anyone.
  3. Always tell the truth. Nonprofits can’t expect to just share their amazing stories once in a while and expect anyone to hear them. It’s got to be your work every single day. Today, even your closest friends will miss much of what you say online. So keep telling your story even when you’re weary of saying the same thing over and over again. It’s only then that you’re starting to be effective.

Finally, speak from the heart. Your organization’s truth are the beliefs you live every day, the ones that inspire you to keep going. And that’s your story.


Good Marketing Is Telling the Truth
Want to build an audience — a tribe — of passionate supporters? Just tell the truth.
Short and sweet overview


Brands are Built on Core Beliefs
If no one hates you, no one loves you either. Here’s why.
More concrete detail and examples


How to Simplify Your Nonprofit’s Story
But how do I keep telling the same story over and over again so that anyone pays attention? Borrow a tactic from Pixar.
Concrete advice



Tactics on how to recover when things go horribly wrong.

Nonprofit Crisis Communications 101: Shorten the News Cycle

That’s Not Nice! Top 10 Tips for Responding to Negative Comments

3 Steps to Combat Social Media Harassment and Intimidation

Be bold about saying who you are and what you believe in. You won’t please everybody, but everybody isn’t going to get involved anyway. Instead, find others with the same beliefs.


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