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How Strong is Your Nonprofit’s Message?

Lori Halley 05 April 2010 1 comments

Your nonprofit puts a great deal of effort into crafting messages meant to attract new supporters, motivate donors and volunteers, and spur your advocates to action. But if your organization is like 84% of nonprofits, those messages may be failing to connect strongly with your key audience.

I’ve just been revisiting an interesting survey conducted earlier this year by nonprofit marketer Nancy Schwartz of Getting Attention. More than 900 nonprofit leaders responded to her questionnaire, revealing what Nancy identifies as a “major crisis” in the way nonprofits position themselves and communicate their missions:

  • 70% of nonprofits say their messages are poorly targeted;
  • 73% say their messages lack inspiration; and
  • 86% of nonprofits say their messages are difficult to remember.

In fact, less than half of the nonprofits surveyed felt their organizational tagline, positioning statement, and talking points were used consistently across channels, audiences, or programs. Consistently delivering a relevant message to your audience, Nancy advises, is the “be all and end all” of messaging impact:  “Simply developing a compelling welcome email is not enough… Make it easy for your network to recognize that a communication is coming from your organization by being consistent – in language and tone – in your outreach to each segment.”

You can read the full report including Nancy's recommendations here, and take a look at the original survey questions (PDF) here.

Question 9 on the survey, in particular – What are the top two barriers to developing more effective messages? – may be one to bring up for discussion with your own board and staff members, as the first step in solving any problem to identify its cause. Some of the obstacles identified by the survey respondents will seem all too familiar to other nonprofit communicators:

  • Lack of leadership support
  • Too busy
  • Concerned about expense
  • Diverse audiences
  • Complex programming
  • Blinders, e.g. lack of external perspective
  • Colleagues, volunteers, members untrained as messengers.

What’s your barrier to stronger, more consistent messaging?


Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 05 April 2010 at 3:08 PM


  • John Haydon said:

    Monday, 05 April 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Nancy's blog was one of the first one's I read years ago when I was launching my biz. As you mention, Rebecca, there's a lot more that goes into messaging than taglines or welcome messages, and Nancy has the goods.

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