Conducting a communications audit for your nonprofit organization is inherently valuable (plus, skipping your communications audit is risky). But when you’re ready to move forward with your audit, there’s something simple you can do to get the most out of it: start with a specific question in mind.

Last fall, I conducted a communications audit for a large, complex organization that delivers a high volume of communications via many team members. When the audit scope started to balloon, and we found ourselves looking at more than 120 samples, we were able to re-centre the audit around one of our core questions: “How can we unify and align parallel communications efforts within our organization?”

At the same time, I was also conducting an audit for a tiny organization. Their communications had almost stuttered to a halt, which meant we had very few recent samples to review. However, our core question about the best way to start building a communications team informed the internal conversations and the strategic and operational elements we reviewed as part of the audit.

In each case, our questions helped us focus our efforts, determine what to review (and what aspects to focus on), and ensure we gleaned practical information and insights from the audits. And, of course, in both cases, the exercise ultimately surfaced information about much more than these initial questions.

What questions can your nonprofit’s communications audit answer?

To give your communications audit context, focus, and meaning, try to start with a primary question. To help you consider what that question might be, here are some examples:

Strategic alignment

  • Do our communications support our nonprofit’s strategic priorities and plans?
  • Are our communications aligned with our key performance indicators?

Audiences

  • Are our communications efforts designed with priority audiences in mind?
  • Do our communications reflect, represent, and include all of our audience members?

Message consistency

  • How consistent are our public messages? Are they aligned?
  • Do our communications reflect our mission and values?
  • Do our communications convey our nonprofit’s impact?

Communications mix

  • How well do our communication channels and tactics align with our audience’s preferences and needs?
  • What is our mix of owned, earned, paid, and shared media?
  • How are we incorporating and leveraging storytelling?

Team

  • What specific gaps in roles and responsibilities should our next marketing communications hire address?
  • How well do different team members or departments collaborate when delivering communications?

Process

  • How efficient are our communication processes and procedures?
  • Which communication processes are overly complicated or underused?

Tools

  • Are our communication policies and guidelines up-to-date, understood, and used within the organization?
  • How well are our communication technology tools integrated? Are there redundancies?
  • Which tools are missing from our communications toolkit?

Resources

  • What time and resources are we directing to communications?
  • How are we currently allocating resources for communication tools, processes and delivery?

Training and Support

  • What training and support is currently provided to staff delivering communication? What are the gaps?

What do you want to learn from your audit?

Do you know what core question you want your nonprofit’s communications audit to answer? How will you decide what to ask?

I’ve provided a list to help you reflect, but don’t just pick and choose. Take the time to consider current or upcoming plans, changes, opportunities, issues, or pain points that you need to prepare for or address and use my list to help you articulate your core question. Then shape your audit to glean the most useful information possible about the current state of your communication and potential areas for improvement or investment.

Note: Don’t worry about being limited by a focus on a core question. Conducting an audit will give you answers to many more, with the core question helping to keep the process manageable and focused.

Would you like my help with your nonprofit’s next communications audit? Please see my audit service details and contact me if it looks like a fit.

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