Sustainability - Engage the Stakeholders


Strategy 1: Engage the Stakeholders


One of the three key strategies to ensure sustainability is to engage the stakeholders. Who are stakeholders? The term became popular in for-profit business a couple of decades ago. Everyone who has an interest in the success of the organization is a stakeholder.


In the case of the assistive technology (AT) reuse organization, stakeholders may include:

Users, or clients, who receive devices (that they could not otherwise afford) to facilitate the activities of daily life The families of device recipients, whose caregiver roles are made easier by the availability of AT Device donors, who make the re-use possible Contributors of money for program operations, whether private individuals, government agencies, corporations, foundations or other public charities In-kind contributors who donate products or services; e.g., the printer who prints brochures without charge, a local radio station that provide air time for public service announcements, a garage that provides free oil changes for delivery vehicles, the church that donates office supplies, or the attorney who provides pro bono legal services Board members who serve without compensation and commit substantial talent and time to the success of the organization Employees who oversee the leadership and program activities of the organization Volunteers who work without compensation to serve the needs of the organization Strategic partners whose goals converge with those of the AT organization and enter into formal partnerships; e.g., the recycler who accepts end-of-life computers without fees, or the Ambucs members who build home ramps for wheelchair users Informal partners who identify resources, e.g., the funeral directors, doctors or durable medical equipment providers who identify available equipment Doctors, therapists and other medical professionals who work with patients who need durable medical equipment Teachers and parents of users of computers or other educational assistive technology


The entire community benefits from the improved lives of the users and families and from the contributions of all stakeholders. In another sense, all taxpaying adults who, as citizens, subsidize the organization by supporting its tax-exempt status as a public charity are stakeholders. So, almost everyone in the community is a stakeholder.

What tactics can be used to get these stakeholders to recognize their vested interest and to actively contribute to the success of the AT re-use organization? This engagement is crucial, because it contributes to Strategies Two (diversifying fundraising) and Three (building capacity).


Tactic 1: The Board of Directors and the management should articulate the vision, mission, and goals of the organization.


[For more information and models, see the Organizational Structure module and the article Writing a Mission Statement.]


The vision, mission, and goals of the organization should be communicated to the entire community through effective marketing and community relations strategies. The organization needs a recognizable “brand,” and it needs to be a known resource in the community. The ability to fill a need and familiarity reinforce commitment of contributors of all kinds.


Tactic 2:  Segment the stakeholders into audiences.


The stakeholders need to be informed about news and activities related to the success of the organization, but how? Because the stakeholders are as diverse as the community, no single means of communication and no single message is likely to have equal success with the entire group. Audience segmentation is a useful tool for determining methods of communication. Using the list of stakeholders above, a list of audiences can be created that is specific to the organization.


Each audience can be profiled by answering several questions:

What is its specific “stake” or special interest in the organization?

What are the demographics of the group?

How do the members interact with the organization?

What information will be of greatest interest to this audience?

What services could the organization offer to this audience?

What contribution can this audience make to the organization?

Which forms of communication are more likely to be effective with this audience?

How technology-savvy is this group?


The description (or persona) of each audience should summarize this data. See


Tactic 3:  Identify primary communication channel for each segment of stakeholders.


It is important to keep the stakeholders informed, but organizations must be wary of using much-needed income in ways that are not the most cost effective. Whenever possible, free or inexpensive means of communication should be used. That is where the use of technology comes in – e-mail, electronic newsletters, and podcasts are some options in addition to web sites. [See Resources below for more information about using these tools.] Web sites are one-way communication. Most afford few opportunities for the user to interact. That can be optimized with the addition of informational resources. Other electronic communication channels can be considered, depending on the audience.


Print letters, brochures and reports are still preferred by some people. It’s the most expensive communication alternative, so it should be used in a targeted fashion.


E-mail represents a “push” mechanism for delivery messages – or newsletters – to a large audience for little cost.


Online social networking tools are used increasingly by both professionals and younger audiences. Two of these tools with potential for engaging stakeholder segments are blogs and podcasts.


Blogs are somewhat similar to columns in a print publication. The word is a contract of “Web log,” and it consists of a featured writer on a web site. The postings (commentaries, articles) usually offer the reader an opportunity to comment on the content. Some blogs use the question-and-answer format. Blogs can build audiences, but the writer should approach the assignment professionally, and the communication should be on a frequent schedule.


Podcasts are audio or video received on Apple iPod®, computer Internet or other MP3-capable devices.


Tactic 4: The Board, managers, employees and volunteers should work to secure broad involvement through contributions of devices, time, and good or services.


Involvement fosters commitment. Writing a contribution check does not necessarily make the donor feel involved in the organization. People like to give to people, not to organizations. If possible, the donor needs some first-hand contact with the organization and the users.






Nonprofit Online News. See free white papers and reports on using Email and Internet to communicate.

Gilbert, Michael C. The Gilbert Email Manifesto. Using the Internet. A variety of articles on using the Internet in nonprofit organizations.

            Bravo, Britt. Seven Ways Nonprofits Can Use Podcasts

            Porter, Joshua. Nine Lessons for Would-Be Bloggers

            ___________. Nine More Lessons for Would-Be Bloggers

            Toledanno, Yann. Use Online Surveys to Get the Feedback You Need





Please note that by selecting an Internet link you will be directed to an external site, and the Pass It on Center does not control the content of the site.



This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.


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Other Information

Title: Sustainability - Engage the Stakeholders
Module: Sustainability
Author: Trish Redmon
Audience: Administrator
Sub Title: Sustainability Strategy 1
Organization Source: Pass It on Center
Last Reviewed: 01-22-2009 1:54 PM