A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action
Last Revised: Oct 28, 2016 - Initial Posting: Jul 09, 2010

As stated by the SPIN Project, a strategic communications plan has the power to transform an organization: both in terms of your credibility and status in your community, and in terms of the way you work together as a team to achieve your mission and vision for your community.


Use these resources to develop a cohesive strategic communications plan for your agency:

Strategic Communications Planning
The SPIN Project

The SPIN Project strengthens nonprofit social justice organizations, small and large, to communicate effectively for themselves.

The SPIN Project was created to support organizations that want to shape public policy, with the understanding that communications is a critical component in any social change effort. We provide tools and resources to increase nonprofit communications capacity, and focus both on campaign-specific strategy and tactical advice for social change organizations.Strategic Planning Communications Tutorial

A Strategic Planning Communications Tutorial is one item developed by The SPIN Project.  Strategic communications is an art – the art of presenting ideas clearly, concisely, persuasively and systematically in a timely manner to the right people.  Strategic communications is about maximizing available resources and positioning your organization to be proactive instead of reactive.  It’s about advancing your mission and actualizing your vision.

The purpose of a strategic communications plan is to integrate all the organization’s programs, public education and advocacy efforts.  By planning a long-term strategy for your efforts, you will be positioned to be more proactive and strategic, rather than consistently reacting to the existing environment.  The strategic plan will help you deploy resources more effectively and strategically by highlighting synergies and shared opportunities in your various programs and work areas.

The tutorial includes a Communications Plan Worksheet based on a Communications Plan Pyramid, which outlines six questions you must answer before you even begin to implement your media tactics:

  1. Assess your communications infrastructure.
  2. Establish your goals.
  3. Who is your target?
  4. Who is your audience?
  5. What is your frame?
  6. What is your message?

Additional helpful resources are available through The SPIN Project including:

Effective Messaging
The Opportunity Agenda

The Opportunity Agenda uses solid social science, video storytelling, and targeted publications to promote the Opportunity Frame. The Frame is a way of talking about progressive issues that appeals to values that are deeply held in the U.S.American Opportunity: A Communications Toolkit

Material in American Opportunity: A Communications Toolkit includes tools, tips, and techniques for building the national will to expand opportunity for all.  This toolkit represents the best thinking about how to use the Opportunity Frame from the communications professionals at the SPIN Project, the leaders of The Opportunity Agenda, other communications professionals engaged in defining the Opportunity Frame and grassroots leaders from across the country working on critically important issues.

From a communications perspective, opportunity is a strong and promising foundation upon which to build a social justice policy agenda. To the extent that social justice policies in housing, education, health care, immigration, or criminal justice, are tied to the value of opportunity, they will have a significant head start in winning support.

Opportunity is defined as a fair chance to achieve one’s full potential.  A true “Opportunity Society” would uphold these core values:

  1. Mobility. Everyone who works hard should be able to advance and participate fully in the nation’s economic, political, and cultural life.  Any poor child in America should be able to fulfill her or his full potential; economic status at birth should not pre-determine ultimate achievements or assets.
  2. Equality. Access to the benefits, responsibilities, and burdens of our society should exist without discrimination or inequality based on race, gender, nationality, socioeconomic status, or other aspects of what we look like or where we come from.  Nor should favoritism, nepotism, or corruption work to shut out disfavored groups or perpetuate a privileged class.
  3. Voice. We embrace democracy as a system that depends on the ability of all of us to participate in the public dialogue. The voting booth, the town square, the street corner, and the op-ed page remain important, and have been joined by broadcast and electronic media.  This aspect of the American ideal provides not only freedom from censorship, but key opportunities to participate in our society’s political, cultural, and intellectual life.
  4. Redemption. Human beings are not fixed in their abilities or motivations; they evolve and develop based on available ability is not the same as future potential.  People who falter in their efforts deserve a chance to get back on their feet; those who break societal rules warrant not just punishment, but also the opportunity for rehabilitation, redemption, and a second chance.
  5. Community. We are part of a common national enterprise, linked in our successes and challenges, and responsible to each other as well as to ourselves.  We value diversity as a strength, and strive to evolve with our changing population.
  6. Security. No one should be denied access to a basic level of education, health, and economic well-being.  Without this basic protection from exploitation, it is impossible to access the other rights and responsibilities that society has to offer.

Further resources on messaging are available through The Opportunity Agenda including:

More Resources

Here are three more items that can be used to help build effective strategic communications in your agency:


Effective strategic communications is essential to promote increased awareness and support for your agency.


Kenneth Ackerman, Virtual CAP Project Manager