It’s a Politically Volatile Election Year. How is Your Nonprofit Adapting?

Perhaps you’ve picked up on the fact that we’re not just in any old election year. Oh no. We’re barreling toward what might be among the most volatile presidential elections in U.S. history.

Amid heightened political tension, the path forward for nonprofits is challenging but navigable with thoughtfulness and preparation.

For those looking to engage partners and supporters, you may find that previously familiar landscapes have suddenly shifted. The sea of political discourse doesn’t just distract but divides, making efforts to communicate and connect more critical than ever. This year, strategies for nonprofit supporter engagement and brand messaging must be dynamic and adaptive.

Anticipating Fluctuations

Constituents are acutely aware of, and responsive to, the political implications associated with the brands they support. They’re also bombarded with political messaging at every turn, which means that your messaging as a nonprofit can easily get crowded out in the competitive arena for attention.

Whether or not your organization’s platform carries obvious political relevance, preparing for the impacts a presidential election year can have on funding, donorship, and communication with your supporters is essential. One-quarter of consumers polled by Ipsos indicated that they have ceased using a brand or service in the last three months due to political or social issues.

And this doesn’t always have to do with political stances related to the brand itself. Partnerships with influencers, corporations, and even employees can unintentionally impact your supporters’ perceptions of your organization. Digital and social media also play an increasingly significant role in our perceptions of political events, meaning that it’s easy for algorithms, biases, and echo chambers to affect how supporters hear about and respond to your actions as an organization.

“Anticipating and proactively addressing the dynamic shifts within the philanthropic arena are key,” says Philips McCarty, founder of Good Scout.

What could this look like this election year? McCarty advises: “Our observations at Good Scout suggest an emerging trend signaling potential decline in corporate contributions, particularly around the mid-year mark.”

Engaging Partners Proactively

Nonprofits should be having conversations right now with their corporate partners. Engaging in open dialogues about their preferences for advocacy and visibility this election year can ensure alignment and mutual support.

“Election years can bring a lot of unpredictability, influencing how companies approach their giving strategies,” says Good Scout President and Managing Partner Charisse Brown-Marcus.

She advises, “Nonprofit corporate partnership teams can start conversations early and keep those lines of communication wide open. These aren’t just check-ins. They’re opportunities to truly understand if and how your partners are shifting their strategies in response to the political climate.”

Such engagement ensures that nonprofits are not caught off-guard by sudden changes in support and can adjust their strategies accordingly. It also opens up avenues for discussing how both parties can effectively address these shifts, ensuring mutual benefits and sustained impact despite the broader political volatility.

Sharpening Communication

In response to this election year’s challenges, sharpening your nonprofit’s messaging and marketing is also important to cut through the political noise.

Even without the effects of inauspicious partnerships muddying brand perception, nonprofit supporters can stray away from your cause simply because of messaging overload.

“The crowded messaging environment means that nonprofit messages risk being overshadowed,” explains Brown-Marcus. “How are you focusing your communications to cut through the noise?”

Consumers may feel overwhelmed by the amount of marketing (political or otherwise) they’re receiving, leading them to eliminate engaging on some messaging channels altogether. Others may shift their focus and funds to supporting a political candidate, redirecting support away from your organization, even if they still feel emotionally and socially connected to your organization.

It’s important to prepare your organization in advance for these potential changes. Bolster your marketing efforts by emphasizing your mission and reiterating how your nonprofit engages the values of your supporters.

You might also consider more technical methods to back up your efforts, like revisiting marketing data or cleaning out your email lists. In any case, the point is to ensure your marketing communication is clear and continuously engaging with your audiences.

Knowing Your Niche

In today’s climate, it may feel like you have a responsibility to address every social issue. But realistically, this can create more chaos than good.

“Remember your organization’s core expertise. Trying to position yourselves as experts in all social ills dilutes your impact,” explains Brown-Marcus. “Stick to your strengths and the areas where you can make the most difference. This approach not only maintains your authenticity but also enhances your effectiveness through more challenging times.”

Attempting to make a statement on every major political issue can effectively direct attention away from your core mission, negatively impacting the perception of your brand. When potential donors engage with your organization for the first time, your efforts to build a political platform can cloud their ability to connect. Inevitably, this limits the pool of potential supporters to only those who agree with your organization on every stance, damaging your cause and those it cares for.

Brown-Marcus explains, “The inclination to shift stance based on perceived expectations from donors or partners can be compelling in uncertain times. However, the organization’s integrity and its impact depend on a steady commitment to the core mission.”

Strengthening Brand Equity

One of the most potent strategies for preparing for change due to political action is strengthening brand equity—well before the change actually occurs. Building stable brand equity is crucial for organizations aiming to sustain and thrive over the long term, even when facing short-term adversities that may crop up during a politically volatile year.

“In light of expected market and political volatility, particularly affecting year-end giving and support, push for a focus on shoring up your brand’s strength,” says McCarty. “It’s about getting ahead of the curve—making sure your organization isn’t just weathering the storm but can function, or even thrive, through it and beyond.”

Proactive planning and engagement strategies can be aimed specifically at reinforcing the core values and perceptions of nonprofit brands. By concentrating on building a resilient and respected brand, organizations can better safeguard their long-term success and impact.

Building capacity for foresight that anticipates potential changes on the horizon is essential for long-term nonprofit health. Good Scout offers customized nonprofit assessments that identify strengths and areas of opportunity for growth. Learn more about how we can help you build resilience through strategies for managing change. Reach out to our team today.