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From Classroom to Boardroom: Communication Skills for Non-Profit Leaders in Canada

  • By Diana Kawarsky, MA, CCP
  • June 26, 2024

Communication Skills for Non-Profit Leaders

Leading a non-profit organization in Canada is no small feat. From securing funding and engaging volunteers to advocating for your cause, the challenges are numerous. Effective communication skills are essential for success in this sector. Transitioning these skills from an educational setting (classroom) to a leadership setting (boardroom) can make all the difference. This blog post will explore how non-profit leaders can master communication skills to excel in their roles.

The Power of Communication for Non-Profit Leaders

Canadian non-profit leadership demands dedication to the mission and the ability to communicate effectively with diverse stakeholders.

Communicating Vision and Mission

Communicating a non-profit’s vision and mission effectively is key to engaging donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries. Use compelling messaging, emotional appeal, and storytelling to build support and bring your mission to life.

Engaging Donors and Securing Funding

Specialized non-profit communication strategies are required for fundraising pitches and grant proposals. Emotional stories foster deeper connections with donors. Showcase your impact and the significance of their contributions, while also adapting your communication for various audiences.

Building Strong Volunteer Teams

Motivating and retaining volunteers heavily relies on communication. Foster a sense of community and belonging with inclusive language and by recognizing contributions. Regular check-ins and feedback can keep volunteers engaged and committed to your cause.

Advocating for Change

Effective communication can influence policy and create social change. You can craft impactful public presentations and media outreach strategies to advocate for your cause. Use data and real-life stories to support your arguments and connect with your audience on a personal level.

Communication Strategies for Different Audiences

This table highlights the different techniques non-profits can use based on their audience and communication goals.

Audience Communication Goals Key Strategies (Canadian Context)
Donors Secure funding, express gratitude, build trust Storytelling: Showcase the impact of donations with compelling narratives featuring Canadian beneficiaries.

Highlight impact: Quantify results and achievements using data relevant to Canadian audiences (e.g., number of people served, social impact within Canada).

Express gratitude: Personalize thank-you messages and acknowledge ongoing support.

Tax benefits: (For Canadian donors) Clearly communicate tax benefits of charitable donations in Canada.

Volunteers Motivate, provide clear instructions, foster engagement Two-way communication: Encourage open communication and feedback from volunteers.

Clear instructions: Provide detailed instructions and training tailored to volunteer roles.

Recognition: Acknowledge and celebrate volunteer contributions publicly.

Flexibility: Offer flexible volunteer opportunities to accommodate diverse schedules (consider remote options for pan-Canadian reach).

Policymakers Influence policy decisions, advocate for your cause Data-driven arguments: Present compelling data and statistics relevant to Canadian issues.

Focus on solutions: Offer clear and realistic policy proposals with Canadian context.

Build relationships: Develop strong relationships with Canadian policymakers and key stakeholders.

Lobbying: Utilize effective lobbying strategies within Canada’s legal framework.

Canadian Context and Cultural Considerations

In a diverse country like Canada, interpersonal skills training is essential for cultural sensitivity in communication. Respectful and clear communication, considering regional differences and communication styles, can help bridge gaps. For non-profits operating in bilingual environments, it’s crucial to be proficient in both English and French to reach a broader audience.

Core Communication Skills for Non-Profit Leaders

Investing in communication skills training for non-profits is vital to equip leaders with the tools they need to effectively convey their mission and engage stakeholders.

Verbal Communication Skills

Public Speaking and Presentations: Engage and persuade your audience with effective oral communication skills. Storytelling and emotional appeal can make your presentations more impactful and relatable.

Interpersonal Communication: Building strong relationships with staff, volunteers, and stakeholders is vital for non-profit leaders. Practice active listening and provide constructive feedback to foster a positive organizational culture.

Conflict Resolution: Conflicts are inevitable in any organization. Develop strategies to handle conflicts effectively within your team and with external partners. Strong conflict-resolution skills can help maintain healthy relationships and collaborations.

Persuasive Communication: Advocating for your non-profit’s mission and vision requires persuasive communication skills training. Highlight the impact of your work on Canadian communities and negotiate partnerships and funding opportunities confidently.

Assertive Communication: Balancing respect with clear and confident communication of goals and needs is essential. Advocate for your cause without being aggressive, considering Canadian communication style preferences.

Written Communication Skills

High-Impact Writing: Develop strong email writing skills by crafting clear, concise, and compelling emails and reports. Focus on tone, clarity, and structure to ensure your messages are understood and well-received.

Grant Writing and Proposals: Writing successful grant applications requires tailoring proposals to meet different funders’ needs. Highlight your non-profit’s unique strengths and the impact of your work to stand out from the competition.

Digital Communication: Leverage social media and digital platforms for outreach. Write engaging content for blogs, newsletters, and social media posts to connect with your audience and promote your non-profit’s mission.

Take the Quiz: Are You Using the Right Communication Style for Your Non-Profit Audience?

Instructions: Answer each question honestly by choosing the option that best reflects your communication approach.

1. When crafting messages for donors, you focus on:

A) Facts and figures showcasing the impact of their donations.

B) Emotional stories about the beneficiaries your organization helps.

2. When presenting to a board of directors, you:

A) Use clear and concise language focusing on data and results.

B) Emphasize the emotional impact of your work and future goals.

3. When communicating with volunteers, you:

A) Provide detailed instructions and clear expectations.

B) Offer a variety of volunteer opportunities and flexible scheduling.

4. In social media posts, you:

A) Share factual updates on your organization’s activities.

B) Use visuals and engaging storytelling to connect with a broader audience.

5. When advocating for policy change, you:

A) Present data and statistics highlighting the need for action.

B) Share personal stories of those affected by the current policy.

6. During fundraising campaigns, you:

A) Emphasize tax benefits and the ROI for donors.

B) Focus on building emotional connections with potential donors.

7. When communicating with government agencies, you:

A) Use formal language and focus on specific policy proposals.

B) Build relationships and highlight the shared values of your organization.

8. When thanking donors, you:

A) Send personalized messages with clear donation breakdowns.

B) Share stories of how their contributions made a difference.

9. When recruiting volunteers, you:

A) Clearly outline the skills and experience required.

B) Emphasize the positive impact volunteers can make.

10. In email communication, you:

A) Keep messages concise and focused on the purpose.

B) Use a friendly and approachable tone to foster connection.


1. Mostly As:

Your communication style leans towards a direct and informative approach. While data and clear instructions are valuable, consider incorporating storytelling and fostering two-way communication to connect with your audience on a deeper level and build stronger relationships.

2. Mostly Bs:

Your communication style emphasizes connection and engagement. While storytelling and open communication are crucial, remember to balance each with data and clear calls to action to ensure your message resonates and inspires action.

3. Both A & B:

Aim for a balance of clarity and emotional connection, adapting to your audience.

Remember: By understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you can tailor your approach to effectively engage with each unique audience for your Canadian non-profit.

How TSSG Can Help Improve the Communication Skills of Nonprofit Leaders

Mastering communication skills is essential for non-profit leaders to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. The Soft Skills Group (TSSG) offers workshops and training programs, including leadership and presentation skills training, to help non-profit leaders enhance their communication skills.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your organization’s growth and success. By investing in verbal and written communication skills training, non-profit leaders can build stronger teams, secure more funding, and create a lasting impact in their communities.

Diana Kawarsky, MA, CCP

Diana is President of The Soft Skills Group Inc., and a senior training & development professional with over 20 years of experience in delivery, design & consulting with Fortune 500 companies, Universities & Colleges in Canada, USA, Europe, and Asia. Read More