Organisation

Communication

In order to achieve SPARK’s mission and objectives, effective and consistent communication is vital. Donors, stakeholders and (potential) partners need to be informed about how and where SPARK is having what impact and what areas and topics SPARK focuses its attention and funds on. Communications, advocacy activities and promotional material target SPARK’s current and prospective network. This network encompasses SPARK’s beneficiaries, staff, (local) partners, donors, government officials, consultants, youth and other minorities as well as past and potential employees.

The aim of SPARK’s communication activities is to raise awareness of SPARK and its cause in the development sector on the Dutch, European and international levels. The strategy to achieve this focuses on storytelling and results, and can be described as a multi-channel approach. SPARK continues to develop and update its website and is increasingly active on social media. Brochures and reports are spread to communicate SPARK’s message, and a variety of events such as expert meetings and an annual conference are organised. SPARK also takes part in debates and seminars worldwide to advocate for the issues at stake. Gradually SPARK is creating a network of journalists in order to enhance free publicity within and outside the Netherlands.

Events

In 2014, SPARK’s communication team successfully organised the second edition of the IGNITE! Conference. In addition to the conference, SPARK also organised three editions of its Expert Meeting series in The Hague, New York City and during The Hague Conference on Business and Human Security. SPARK representatives visited 38 conferences in its areas of expertise, to network with partners and increase its reach.

More detailed information about these events here. More information on SPARK events can also be found on the events section of our website.

External Communication

Website

The use of SPARK’s website has been stable over 2014, with only minor changes compared to 2013. The total number of page views decreased by 4%, while the average time per session increased by 2.27% and the bounce rate decreased by 4%. Traffic to the website via social media and also direct access has increased These results can be interpreted as an increase in relevance and thus increased engagement with the website.

For 2015, SPARK aims to further increase website reach as part of its overall communication strategy. There remains a significant potential to increase reach, especially in programme countries. For this reason, country staff should be included more in communication activities. The website content will be revised and updated, in particular the entrepreneurs’ stories and the indicators (per programme and per region) to ensure relevance and usability for both donors and stakeholders.

Newsletters

SPARK sends out a bimonthly newsletter to keep its donors and stakeholders informed about the results of its work in programme regions and to share relevant news. The newsletter is distributed via email, with a subscription option offered on the website. This newsletter also informs subscribers about upcoming events, such as the IGNITE! Conference, and engages with them in a more direct way. Furthermore, the newsletter aims at increasing SPARK’s reach and generating traffic for SPARK’s website.

communication 1

In 2014, SPARK sent out ten newsletters to an average of 2,640 recipients. The opening rate per newsletter campaign exceeds in most cases the average opening rate of 20.8% for the sector (i.e. non-profit organisations). In terms of click rates, SPARK reflects the sector average of 2.4%. SPARK also started to track measures in relation to the newsletter, such as click behaviour and which topics gained the most attention. For 2015, SPARK aims to further fine-tune the use of such measures in order to improve and tailor the newsletter better to its readers.

Social Media

Facebook is SPARK’s main focus in terms of social-media activities. Here, SPARK shares relevant news items, stories from the entrepreneurs it supports and other reports and pictures of SPARK’s activities. SPARK aims to reach a broad audience across relevant countries and to re-introduce its work and results to its network.

communication 2

SPARK’s social-media strategy further encompasses Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Audio-visual material about SPARK’s activities and recordings from the IGNITE! Conference are available via the YouTube channel and the website.

Across all social-media channels, SPARK has been able to extend its reach and thus build awareness for its cause among a broader audience. Twitter followers increased by 70%, while on LinkedIn SPARK’s direct audience grew by 51% and on Facebook by 28% in comparison to 2013.

For 2015, SPARK aims to further professionalise its social-media strategy, which also entails the inclusion of field offices in social-media activities. A specific social-media strategy is in the making. For the first time, specific targets will be set for social-media activities. The majority of SPARK’s social-media followers is still concentrated in the Netherlands, with only a small percentage in the respective countries where SPARK is active. There still exists untapped potential for increased reach. Ideally, all field-office staff will receive social-media training in 2015.

Transparency

The overriding goal of the SPARK ethics policy is to assure, protect and enhance the integrity, assets and reputation of the organisation. Therefore, SPARK considers financial accountability, visibility and transparency to be crucial parts of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan. To this end, SPARK has developed the TranSPARKency website for the publication of budget plans and financial reports. SPARK follows the International Aid Transparency Initiative’s (IATI) standards.

In 2014, SPARK published its own page on the IATI platform, the aid transparency website. This page contains programme data from six of SPARK’s programme countries (Kosovo, OPT, Rwanda, Liberia, Burundi and South Sudan). Comprehensive project details for each of these countries, including budgets and how those budgets were spent, are now available for anyone, anywhere to view online. Data for SPARK’s other countries will be added as soon as possible. As one of the first organisations to sign on to the transparency efforts put forth by IATI, SPARK continues to be in the vanguard of organisations seeking more transparency in regard to how donor funds are spent. SPARK is now joined by over 300 different organisations globally that are participating in this initiative to show the public how donor funds are spent.

Click here for more information about TranSPARKency and SPARK’s IATI page.

Reports

The Annual Report 2013 was published online at the end of May 2014. SPARK decided to no longer publish the report in print, but to make it available for download as a PDF on its website. In addition to the PDF, the 2014 Annual Report will for the first time be integrated in the SPARK’s website.

SPARK submits its Annual Report to the “Transparant Prijs”, an award for the most transparent reports in the Dutch non-profit sector. The feedback received from the award committee is used for further improvement of the next Annual Report.

Internal Communication

Communication is an integral part of SPARK’s organisation, both at the headquarters and our local offices. With the headquarters in Amsterdam and international offices spread across three continents, SPARK staff members rely on email and Skype to stay in touch on a day-to-day basis. SPARK uses the private social network Yammer to facilitate internal communication between the different locations. Yammer could be described as a corporate Facebook that enables SPARK staff to keep each other informed worldwide and share work-related news items, blogs, reports, ideas, tips and pictures. Introduced in 2013, SPARK’s staff makes increasing use of Yammer, and it has proved to be an efficient tool for maintaining contact between diverse offices.

The SPARK Communications Guide was finalised in 2014. It provides staff at all locations with a guideline for internal and external communications that adheres to SPARK’s corporate identity. Several templates were developed in order to streamline communications and present SPARK across countries in a coherent design.

In the different offices, regular staff meetings are held to keep everyone informed about the different activities being conducted. More irregularly, meetings with the directors are held to ensure a good flow of information and to enable processes of knowledge sharing and to gain insights from different perspectives. Around conferences and events, staff members from different locations often use the opportunity to get together and exchange ideas and information.

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