Do NGOs need communications specialists?

The Ukrainian public sector is incredible! Even in the challenging wartime, organizations are reprograming their activities. For instance, a nongovernmental organization that worked with the Ministry to oversee the reform may take on new directions, such as community business development or humanitarian aid distribution.

This is a true superpower of Ukrainians. Yet, we work hard but little get we known for our efforts. Still, a lot depends on this: if they don’t know you, they don’t necessarily trust you. Let’s find out why a grant project may need a communication specialist. Why does a public organization need to communicate at all?

Answer the question – why communicate your project and tell the public what you do? Especially when everyone is overloaded with work, stress of the wartime, tight deadlines, and, until recently, constant Internet and power outages… It is not uncommon for organizations to place communication at the bottom of their grant initiative priorities. Ultimately, the key thing is that we do a good deed and help people. But is this enough?

There are several reasons why public organizations need to consistently communicate and promote grant projects:

You increase fundraising capacity. Donors may be more willing to provide funds if previous projects are well presented in the public domain, even if it’s just your organization’s website and social media. And if you raise funds through crowdfunding, it becomes your duty to report for all to see the progress and outcome of your work, because people can only give you that much if they get a positive emotional reward and recognition in return for every penny they invested in you. Strict financial reporting matters, yet it is important for donors, small and large, to see where their money went, what value it created, and who they supported or helped. Besides, major donor organizations also have to report to their stakeholders.

A week into the war, the Foundation launched the Shelter Project. We reached out to both large donors and friends around the world, and for the first time ever we attracted funds from private sources. In those days, we wrote about every humanitarian cargo truck, every parcel and community aid delivery. We told stories about small contributors from around the world who sold cookies or embroidered hearts to raise funds to support war refugees. We did so because we realized it is important for people to know where their money went and take inspiration from other people’s noble deeds. Since there is no such thing as a small help.

Your organization is positioned as vibrant and active. Get a message across that your team is capable of adapting to challenges of today and is trustworthy. Are you able to implement grant projects? Have you found your place in the whirlwind of the Great War? What news do you post? What is your work about now, in this new reality? People who develop projects or look for partners or just follow your page, may create an impression about your organization through public domain: if they see stories of people who have been helped, or read about the equipment purchase and delivery, or posts about your team and volunteers, they understand: the organization is vibrant enough not to just work, but also to tell about your work to attract partners and prove itself capable and alert in the eyes of their audience.

You demonstrate a high level of organizational development through the presence of a communicator and information campaigns as part of the grant project. Both communication team and information campaign to enhance attainment of your grant project goals – for the donor, this may indicate that you have reached a high level of institutional capacity. It shows your team is complete, your organization is mature enough to understand the need and purpose of communication as one of the management functions that plays a crucial role. This allows assessing the level of institutional development of a potential partner.

You do your part in keeping the international community focused on the war and need to rebuild Ukraine now. We, at the Foundation, collect people’s stories from our grantees and publish them on our information platforms, in the media, and present them to international donors in various formats. We demonstrate that the Ukrainian public sector is currently performing extremely important tasks. And we as an organization deserve support. It’s not just about media presence.

In the first months of the Great War, the Foundation’s team attended charity events in the USA, France, Spain, Scotland, Poland and around the world not only to appeal to philanthropists to support our humanitarian project with donations, but to also talk about events in Ukraine and people’s needs. Public sector communication is another powerful advocacy voice alongside official government outreach. With our stories telling about the people whom we helped, along with all public manifestations of our endeavours, we testify that our projects matter, Ukraine still needs support, and the public sector perseveres throughout the wartime.

By building communication, an organization is able to raise its own standards, innovate, discover best practices, and gain experience. See how other community organizations communicate around their projects, carefully read guidelines from donors, explore free resources and courses, apply for organizational capacity building programs, and train your organization’s team.

You may understand the reasons why it is difficult to engage in communication right now – against the backdrop of shortage of professionals, budget and time. But, once you realize a certain need, eventually you will recognize it is worth seeking support and work towards attaining your organization’s communication goal. Include the work of a communication specialist in the grant application, justify the need for an information campaign and information support as part of the grant project. In this way, you will ensure the possibility to consistently and effectively communicate your projects. 

Author: Olga Milianovych, Senior communication coordinator at East Europe Foundation 

This article was also published at