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Share

Communicating is an active process made up of three continuous and mutually reinforcing actions. Sharing, the final step in a virtuous circle, rarely succeeds fully until you have listened and learned first.

Once your organization has realized its brand, embraced its culture and weighed its strategic choices, you are ready to lean into the most active stage of the communication process.

These three actions — listening, learning and sharing — are best thought of as three parts of a single, regenerative whole. Each action feeds the next, and the circle gains strength over time. But this virtuous circle doesn't happen without someone (individuals) or some thing (organizations) to drive it. Listening, learning and sharing are all incredibly active processes. And to succeed, all three must be present in equal parts and measures.

Sharing, the third phase in this process, is the active dissemination stage where your messages are delivered to, and received by, your key audiences. Think carefully about what you share, and how you share it. Recall what you considered carefully during the strategy section of this model — your messages and point of view. Use plain language. Avoid jargon and too much data. Sometimes facts alone won't carry the day. Sometimes human stories are not enough. It is important to calibrate your content to the conditions in which you're communicating.

Sharing assumes many forms, channels, and routes, nearly all of which require the communicator to ultimately cede control of the message. This is where the real risks (and rewards) come into to play. Once your tweet is posted, your newsletter is sent, your speech delivered, or your interview complete, everyone on the receiving end of that communication will filter your message based on his or her own unique experience. They will listen, and hopefully learn, like all communicators do. But they will bring their own biases and assumptions to that process.

If you've kept up your end of the bargain, if you've listened to and learned from your audience first, the chances are good that the communication you share will reach the desired target and be noticed, though there are no guarantees. Sometimes you miss. And the virtuous listen, learn, share cycle loops back around again.

One final thought to remember. It takes time — often a long time — to listen, learn and share effectively. Active, effective communication unfolds slowly, even when it is done masterfully. It requires significant organizational patience. So stay in it for the long haul. Much like the social change we are ultimately working to achieve, communication demands a tremendous level of effort, a willingness to fail, and the confidence to persevere.

by the numbers

1 in 10

Ratio of Americans who can give an example of a foundation’s impact on an issue they care about.

8 in 10

Ratio of Americans who think it would be a loss for their community if foundations no longer existed.

65%

Percentage of millennials who receive regular email or newsletters from 1 to 5 nonprofits.
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tips and insights

The companies most likely to recognize the strategic communication imperative are those in which the CEO has an inherent understanding of how communication can be a differentiator for a business and thus can drive strategy.

Top 2013 philanthropy buzzwords according to Lucy Bernholz: privacy, performance management, peer-to-peer services, constituent feedback, makers, bitcoin, commons, metadata, randomista, solutionism, hackers.
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Think mobile first when designing online experiences where millennials are your target. This means simplifying your message so users understand your mission immediately, making the text readable for a small device, and making buttons easily clickable. The smoother the experience the younger digital users will understand your cause, be inspired by your mission, and act.
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