This year’s Excellence in Writing Award is presented to Elizabeth Hartman for developing a streamlined, user-friendly method of disseminating information within the American Red Cross, where she manages internal communications related to fundraising. As a large-scale non-profit, the Red Cross needed a simple, but effective, method for informing fundraisers of organizational goals, business changes, and available resources that help the staff plan their fundraising priorities.
Armed with data and insights directly from the affected staff, Hartman established the Fundraising Brief, a weekly email launched in early October 2013. The new system consolidates fundraising-related news, tools, upcoming dates and deadlines across the country to reduce the volume of email received by fundraisers and ultimately free up more staff time for fundraising. Although a relatively simple design, the weekly email system meets critical communication needs and promotes more effective communication strategies throughout the organization.
With the Fundraising Brief, content is categorized by type (i.e. news, tools, dates), organized according to audience, and presented in bulleted lists that are accessible in Outlook and on mobile devices. Each item is no more than five sentences, contains only the most critical information, and includes hyperlinks to further information online and a contact who can provide guidance. With this approach, staff read only the information they need, decide if they will act on an item, and follow the links for more information when necessary.
As she solicits content from in-house contributors each week, Hartman also advises staff on audience-focused writing practices and communication strategies. She challenges contributors to clarify, focus, and cut down information. This value-added consultation helps improve the quality of submissions from week to week while altering how teams think about and approach internal communications. As a result, the Fundraising Brief serves as a critical first step in a larger change to the business culture.
The Fundraising Brief has proven to be a valuable tool for the Red Cross. The response was so positive that subscription requests multiplied exponentially within two weeks and the organization approved extending distribution to chief executive officers and all fundraising staff (not just fundraising leaders). Hartman has developed a plan to further measure the effectiveness of the Fundraising Brief and refine the strategy accordingly.
Knowing that external communications are only as good as the internal practices that generate them, APCC acknowledges Elizabeth Hartman’s accomplishments in writing clearly to meet the needs of staff members internally, the Red Cross at large, and the many constituents it serves. Kudos to Elizabeth Hartman.