7 Actions and Key Tools for Communicating about NGOs

28 September 2020, By María Simal

In the field of communication and public relations there are some common lines of action for every client. That said, communicating about companies is not the same as communicating about non-governmental organizations.

Today we want to share how enriching it is to communicate for an NGO, foundation, or non-profit association. In Canela, we have a wide experience in this particular field, having worked with clients such as Sonrisas de Bombay, Exit Foundation, or Tree-Nation. We are always open to collaborating in these kinds of projects and find them particularly rewarding.

Photo: Markus Spiske

We have identified some keys to implementing a good communication strategy for an NGO, but before getting started, here are three factors to take into account:

  • Communication strategies vary greatly depending on the organization. This will mainly depend on the target the organization is addressing, the typology of the organization and, of course, its scope of action.
  • We must consider the dimension and economic possibilities of the NGO. The budget is inevitably limited, because investment in these organizations is focused on the projects they develop.
  • From the first moment, it is important to develop the communication plan hand in hand with the organization, so as to have clear objectives and work in the same direction.


Actions and essential tools for effective communication:

  • Spokesperson: Ideally, these organizations should have a person (or several of them) who know the organization in depth and the projects they collaborate with. These individuals should be able to provide data, meaning they should be an essential part of the NGO and be able to talk about it extensively. Once you have developed key messages, it will be possible to “sell” any issue to the media, because the spokesperson knows their material well and can speak from the heart.
  • Qualitative management: We must ensure that our organization is considered an expert in what it does. This way, every time there is an issue in the news, they can offer themselves to the media as experts on the subject. For instance, when you turn the spokesperson/spokespeople into an expert, opinion articles are a good way to get the NGO’s issues covered in the media.
  • D Days: These are commemorative dates usually set by an international organization. For example, World Children’s Day or Environment Day. You should have a calendar with all the days that are of interest to the organization, as it will be a good time to communicate. It is advisable, however, to be selective because there are dates that are perhaps taken up by other, larger NGOs, so we must focus on those dates where we have something relevant and impactful to say.
  • Studies/Reports: Studies and reports have a strong appeal for the media. These should provide data that corroborates the situation of the groups with which they work or the issues we deal with. This way, the source is more relevant and, therefore, more appealing to the media.
  • Ambassasdors: Having a familiar face with a media or social network presence is also a good strategy. However, it is important that this person represents the organisation in a positive way and has a clear idea of the messages to be conveyed.
  • Events: they are a good alternative to raise funds and increase the visibility of the organisation, but they should always be newsworthy, according to the type of organisation that hosts them.
  • Campaigns: is one of the key tools when working with NGOs. They are usually undertaken with the aim of increasing members and/or raising awareness about a specific topic through videos, street events, etc. It is also important that they increase visibility and enhance the NGO’s image, as well as have a media-friendly approach.

Ideally, a combination of these tools will be used in order to achieve the highest possible efficiency.

A good example of this is the strategy that we followed with Sonrisas de Bombay for the World Day against Human Trafficking.  We developed a storytelling strategy based on real testimonies and relevant data to trigger media interest. Using these, we prepared an opinion article where the founder of Sonrisas de Bombay explained his own experience at the NGO, a video recorded in Bombay where a Sonrisas beneficiary told her experience, and a press release with shocking data on the human trafficking situation worldwide. As a result, we achieved 11 high quality nation-wide impacts in a variety of media such as Informativos Telecinco, Las Mañanas de RNE, La Vanguardia, ABC, Agencia EFE and Planeta Futuro (El País). This campaign was nominated for an award in the category of PR for Not for profit organisations in the SABRE Awards of 2020.

As you can see, there are multiple tools available, but the key is to find the magic formula for each NGO in order to obtain coverage without losing sight of its values ​​and objectives.


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