Behind the Headlines With Monique LeNoir
If you can’t clearly illustrate how someone’s donation will make an impact, you won’t be able to convince them to support your organization.
Monique LeNoir, national director of communications at United Negro College Fund, says that nonprofits need to consider the human element when asking for donations.
In this interview, Monique discusses how to successfully plan events, how social media can benefit your organization and how to create messages that resonate.
How did you get your start in PR and communications?
My dad, Dr. Michael LeNoir, is a pediatrician and allergist who has always had a particular interest in media. As such, when I was in high school in Oakland, California, he frequently spoke out about those health issues that disproportionately affect the African-American community.
I eventually become his publicist and handled all of his public relations leading up to and through the creation of his own media company, the Ethnic Health America Network, which produced “Ethnic Health America,” a 30-minute TV health program, and “About Health,” a one-hour talk show.
Because of this experience, I decided to major in public relations at Howard University, and then obtained my master’s in public communications from American University, where I wrote my thesis on “How to Develop an Effective Health Care Campaign for African Americans.”
Since joining UNCF last fall, what has been your favorite moment or accomplishment as the national director of communications?
UNCF is a fast-paced organization with a lot of moving parts, local offices and internal divisions. My favorite moment was when our new team, the Branding, Marketing and Communications (BM&C) Department, presented our work plan to development staff throughout our 37 local development offices.
The BM&C team handles all work related to the website, branding, marketing, special events, collateral materials, traditional media and social media, marketing and communications strategy and outreach.
I had only been with the organization for about six months and was so proud of our team consisting of both new and veteran staff members; their collective skills, background and experience; how far we had come and the collaboration, accountability and trust that is now in place.
UNCF has a ton of exciting events coming up over the next few months. What are some of the key components of successful event planning?
Yes, UNCF has close to a 100 events a year! Visit uncf.org to learn more about our upcoming events.
Successful event planning is centered around proper planning, execution and follow-up. Some of the key components of successful event planning include:
- Determining the event purpose, goals and objectives
- Creating the branding, marketing and communications plan around how to tell the story and make an impact
- Determining what platforms will be utilized to deliver the message
- Handling logistical details to include location, selection of vendors, venue, time, talent and participants
- Event execution to ensure a successful event
- Proper close out to identify success, make future recommendations, maximize media coverage and stay connected with event attendees and key stakeholders throughout the year
What are the biggest mistakes organizations make when asking for donations?
The biggest mistake that organizations make when asking for donations is that they don’t consider the importance of the human element. It’s vital to clearly outline and illustrate how a person’s donation will make a difference.
I am a repeat donor to FINCA Int’l, Save the Children and Smile Train because their solicitations clearly outline the mission, the need and the impact. These organizations touch me and compel me to give. In addition, they do an excellent job informing their donors about how their contributions are positively impacting people’s lives.
What are some of the differences in building a communication strategy on a national level compared to a local level?
It’s important to note that what works on a national level doesn’t always work on a local level. When building a communication strategy on a local level, one must carefully examine the unique landscape in that local market to determine what vehicles, strategies, messages and audiences to target. What works nationally or in one market may not resonate in another market.
How does social media affect UNCF’s mission and goals? What benefits does it provide for a brand’s communication strategies?
UNCF’s social media channels serve as a form of two-way communication between UNCF and our several thousand followers. We utilize our various channels to reach different audiences and drive them to our website and gain additional information about our organization, our mission, and our member colleges – all of which helps to shape our brand.
UNCF consistently monitors and tracks our social media analytics to determine successful content and trends and identify the larger stories around our work and our impact. Through social media, we have the ability to share information in real time, weigh in on important issues and raise visibility about our federal policy and advocacy work, research, and most importantly, scholarships and programs. Further, we are able inspire our key stakeholders to mobilize around #BetterFutures.
Overall, UNCF’s social media efforts foster ongoing conversations around our vitally important mission to get students to and through college.
What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in this field?
Intern early and often, get experience in a variety of different industries and aspects of public relations, network with those in the field, find a mentor and join related professional organizations, such as the Public Relations Society of America.
Rapid Fire Round
1. I always thought I’d be . . . a PR professional.
2. My biggest pet peeve is . . . people who don’t do what they say they are going to do or follow through. Integrity is everything!
3. My dream vacation would be…traveling to Spain. I took conversational Spanish while working at a nonprofit microcredit organization, FINCA Int’l, and my instructor, a native of Spain, always spoke about how beautiful it was, steeped in rich culture and tradition.
4. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…my internal clock. I never set an alarm, yet I’m still up each morning in time for my 5:30 a.m. workout class, and if on the slight chance I don’t wake up for some reason, rest assured my two sons will get me up at some point.
5. My hobbies outside of work include…reading, yoga, walking, helping people brainstorm their small business ideas and helping those less fortunate through organizations like Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Jack and Jill of America, Twelve Days of Christmas, Inc. and my own research about those in need in my community.
6. My hidden talent is…organizing. I find organizing to be very therapeutic, and I clean out and organize all of our closets on a regular basis.I’m also very good at scrapbooking and multitasking. As a mother of two young sons involved in various sports and other activities, an active member of two nonprofit organizations, and a busy professional with frequent travel, I guess you could say that I am a walking to-do list.
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