The Castle Group recently created and produced the first-ever Consult Café, a pop-up communications forum for small nonprofits, in partnership with the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network and Babson College. This exclusive event at Babson’s downtown campus gave nonprofit leaders the opportunity to connect, engage, and discuss best practices for creating and building relationships with key stakeholders in one-on-one and small group settings.
There was clearly a great need for the event – more than 90 nonprofits applied for 30 open slots – especially since most nonprofits have small teams and limited budgets, a combination that often relegates communications to the bottom of the priority list. Consult Café was our opportunity to provide nonprofits with actionable advice to advance communications, enhance relationships, and amplify their programs.
Celebrating the Diversity of Nonprofits’ Missions
The participating nonprofits represented a wide variety of causes, including affordable housing, ocean conservation, LGBTQ support immigration, animal rescue, diversity and inclusion, and women and girls empowerment. Representatives attended from around the region, including Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Waltham, Worcester, Burlington and Quincy.
Regardless of their focus, all of the nonprofits in attendance were seeking to effectively communicate with stakeholders for various reasons including advocacy, fundraising, increasing reach and supporting mission.
Harnessing the Power of Being “In Community”
The keynote address from Cheryl Kiser, executive director of The Lewis Institute for Social Innovation and Babson Social Innovation Lab, focused on entrepreneurial mindset and social design. She spoke about the powerful idea of being “in community” – sharing resources, ideas and intent to make good things happen – and how Consult Café was an example of that.
Insights from Nonprofit Leadership
WGBH reporter Tina Martin facilitated a panel discussion on effective communications strategies for nonprofits. The panel featured four local nonprofit leaders: Sarah Poulter, co-director of WriteBoston; Denella Clark, president of the Boston Arts Academy Foundation; Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of Parenting Journey; and Christine Buckley, executive director of the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. Panelists discussed the best ways to leverage community relationships, cultivate relationships with corporate partners, and maximize work with limited resources, email and website marketing. They also highlighted the challenges of fundraising for women and people of color.
Ms. Martin shared professional PR tips and best practices for communicating with the media: keep pitches short, sweet and the to the point; get to know the reporters you are reaching out to and the type of news they cover; and leverage current events to pitch your internal experts for comment.
We wrapped up the day with lively roundtable discussions covering social media, community building, marketing, crisis communications and media relations. Discussions were led by Castle, Babson and MNN team members. After the roundtable, leads gave an overview of the topic and best practices, and nonprofit attendees from around the room had the opportunity to ask specific questions on any topic.
As a nonprofit PR agency in Boston, Castle has had the opportunity to work with nonprofit organizations in many capacities – as an agency as volunteers and as board members. We know how challenging it can be to get the resources and recognition they deserve, yet they continue to do amazing work. We hope that all our nonprofit attendees can take what they learned and bring it back to their organizations to amplify the good work they are already doing.
It was hard not to be inspired by the nonprofits in the room. The nonprofits’ attendees were sharing insights, and tips and tricks of the trade among themselves and building their own relationships.
Learn more about our partnership with Babson College and Mass Nonprofit Network by watching this interview with Castle’s own Sandy Lish and MNN CEO Jim Klocke on Boston Neighborhood Network News: Nonprofits Get Tips on Communications.