One of the occupational requirements that comes with running a network focused on demonstrating the power of smart communications to help foundations and nonprofits improve people’s lives is to be prepared to answer the frequently asked questions: Who excels in using communications to further their missions or programs? Where can I find great examples of strategic communications?
Both questions got a little easier to answer because now I don’t have to preface my comments by saying, “in my opinion.”
Instead, I can now point to four foundations whose communications are judged to be the best in the field. These are the winners of the 2013 Wilmer Shields Rich Awards, a partnership between the Council on Foundations and The Communications Network, to honor foundations that integrate strategic communications into their operations to achieve greater impact and effectiveness.
According to the program’s judges, the four foundations that made the most compelling case that their communications are contributing to organizational and program outcomes are:
Winning a Wilmer Shields Rich Award has always carried prestige. But this year’s award winners had to meet a different set of requirements. In past years, the program honored foundations and corporate giving programs for exemplary communications products—annual reports, newsletters, and more recently, websites. This year, applicants had to demonstrate how they were achieving results that otherwise would not have been possible had they not integrated communications into their work.
Each of this year’s entrants offered a different rationale for why strategic communications is key to their organization’s work. However, the Greater New Orleans Foundation probably summed it up best with this statement:
“Our communications work is not something we set apart from our programmatic work; our communications staff members are not there to dutifully ‘report’ on what our program officers are doing. They’re there to co-create our initiatives with our program and other staff.”
That’s a powerful statement and one that we hope becomes the norm for how foundations approach their work. While foundations have relied on communications for different purposes over the years, this year’s Wilmer Shields Rich winners show that those integrating communications into their core work have a great story to tell about what their organizations are accomplishing.
Congratulations to this year’s winners.