Forty of the Hewlett Foundation grantees who received training took part in an hour-long phone interview and submitted communications planning documentation and key communications materials for review. Following are observations resulting from these interviews.

  1. Communications planning: Too many organizations pursue communications with little or no documentation of communications planning. Although some described training as useful to their communications planning, none of the plans submitted included a completed Smart Chart—the communications planning template used during training.
  2. Target audiences: Many organizations have a developed sense of their target audiences and approach communications with these audiences in mind. Training content on target audiences was consistently described as highly valuable.
  3. Messaging: While many training participants struggled to share a set of key messages during the phone interview, the communications materials they submitted revealed adequate to strong messages conveying their identities, goals, and activities. A significant focus of training and the Smart Chart, messaging coursework received very positive reviews.
  4. Materials: Communications materials submitted ranged widely in purpose and quality. Though some indicated that training’s primary value was improving their skills for creating communications tactics, such as presentations and websites, few organizations with successful communications materials indicated that training was a great influence. Training content on PowerPoint presentation was most highly regarded, though none among those interviewed chose to submit a presentation for assessment. Those who did link training to improvements in communications materials suggested that training occurred at an opportune time in the development of those materials.
  5. Measurement: Measurement practices varied greatly, with some organizations measuring communications effectiveness extensively and others operating primarily through intuition—though many were taking advantage of the availability and ease of common web-enabled measures. Very few of those interviewed believed that training influenced their practice of measurement; many said they do not recall whether measurement was part of training. (The Foundation has acknowledged an interest in continuing to refine this part of the curriculum.)
  6. Capacity: With some exceptions, organizations said they were somewhat to significantly limited in their communications efforts by inadequate staffing and monetary resources. However, many credited training with giving them a new understanding of the value of communications, which, in turn, led them to increase their communications budget relative to their total budget, hire new communications staff, contract with communications professionals, or all of the above.
  7. Leadership buy-in and support: With very few exceptions, interview subjects reported that their organizational leaders are highly supportive of communications. Leadership support of communications appears to be a baseline requirement for the application of lessons learned in training; however, unless the leader her- or himself attended training, training participation generally was not linked to changes in leadership behavior relative to communications.
  8. Mission impact: Most organizations say that communications plays a role in achieving impact. Some partly attribute specific mission-related accomplishments to participation in communications training. In these cases, it appears that training occurred at an opportune time: right before or in the midst of an important transition.