External stakeholders include those affected by your organization who have reasons to want it to succeed. This could be your clients, customers, investors, suppliers, community, and others impacted by the work you do. For your nonprofit to perform well, it is essential that you are keeping all stakeholders informed and engaged. This will keep them satisfied and ready to continue supporting you and your goals.
Creating an External Stakeholder Engagement Strategy
Your stakeholder engagement plan should include three major sections.
- Stakeholder identification: Identify every stakeholder your nonprofit needs to accommodate. Define their roles and responsibilities in your project and label them by name.
- Stakeholder interaction: Now that you’ve identified the stakeholders, you must determine how you will interact with each of them and meet their specific needs.
- Stakeholder engagement: You should also outline how your team will engage with stakeholders and manage their expectations. This could look like meetings or key reports.
What Is the Purpose of Stakeholder Outreach?
Stakeholder outreach is an essential part of a business plan that requires you to formulate specific methods to identify, interact and communicate with your nonprofit’s stakeholders.
Because the stakeholders in your project authorize and allocate resources, you cannot achieve your desired outcome without their support. You should set clear expectations for your stakeholders upfront and then outline how you will maintain those expectations throughout the project’s life. Be aware that every stakeholder will be engaged to a different degree and with a different motivation.
Your nonprofit’s success depends on stakeholder outreach and should be an integral part of your process from the very beginning.
Ways to Engage Stakeholders
Engaging with your stakeholders takes various forms. The biggest takeaway is to be specific and strategic in how you go about engagement. Do your research and be consistent in your implementation.
- Identify your stakeholders early: Like we mentioned before, it is important to identify specifically who your stakeholders are by name, but it is also important that you do so as early in your project’s life as possible. You can also practice categorizing them to add more structure to your plan.
- Seek to understand: Understanding your stakeholder’s point of view before building your plan will make it easier to interact and engage with them throughout your project. Assess what they already know, what they need to know, what power they have, and how interested they are.
- Means of interaction: Plan how you will communicate with each individual. Determine and keep track of their communication preferences. Their level of engagement should influence the means of interaction as well.
- Document: Make sure you document the work you do throughout your stakeholder engagement plan so you and your team are all on the same page and your stakeholders can verify any information.
Communicate Concisely and Clearly
Clear communication through your external stakeholder engagement is essential. You can do certain things to ensure your stakeholders are all on the same page as you and your team.
Establish Communication Goals
Each external stakeholder you have identified will require different communication goals. Different stakeholders will need you to raise awareness of a situation, send a report, align attitudes, attract sales, support policies or change misconceptions. Whatever their needs, your communication as you seek to pursue them should be honest and transparent.
Sometimes your goal of communication may need to be more than simply informing your stakeholders of things going on in your nonprofit. You may need to persuade them to accept a new policy, procedure or focus. Understanding your stakeholder’s goals will help you know how to communicate with them most effectively.
Choose the Right Medium
Again, if you know the goals of your stakeholders, you will know what medium to use to communicate with them so they will be most likely to see it and follow up if necessary. With today’s technology, you have many communication options, including email, reports, memos, chat, video calls, text or in-person meetings. It is helpful to have so many options but important you choose the one you think is suitable for each stakeholder carefully.
Choose the Right Language
Just as you wouldn’t write an email to your supervisor and your sister the same way, you should evaluate how you communicate with your various stakeholders. The medium, stakeholders’ goals, and their stakes in your nonprofit will all determine the language you use when communicating with them. Choosing appropriate language is easy to overlook but important not to.
Methods and Technologies
You can choose from several methods and technologies when selecting digital and traditional engagement tools. Collaborating with stakeholders is essential but shouldn’t have to be expensive. Combining tools into one can help save you money and still get excellent stakeholder collaboration.
- Social media: Using social media can help you save money and ensure all your stakeholders are aware of major changes or announcements. These days, it’s rare for someone not to have social media, so if you market yours and your stakeholders are following you, it can be an excellent way to share information, though it’s not as personal as other methods.
- Team collaboration: Many team collaboration tools are available, such as shared documents, online databases, and discussion forums. These tools can help get everyone on your team and theirs on the same page.
- Consultation tools: These tools can include polls or questionnaires and are helpful for stakeholders who need to be involved before a change is made and not just informed afterward.
- Secure workspaces: Use the internet to your advantage by employing a safe workspace for your nonprofit. Secure spaces give your stakeholders easy access to ask you questions, increasing their trust in you and allowing you to make announcements and other communication clear.
Having an external stakeholder engagement strategy that lays out the methods of communication you will use for various stakeholders will help this process move more quickly and smoothly. Every stakeholder you identify should have a method of communication attached to them in your plan from the beginning.
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