Nonprofit Insurance Program

How to Create an Effective Message for Your Nonprofit

By Alexa Connelly
July 12, 2011

Let’s start with two easy questions.

First, can everyone involved in communicating your nonprofit’s mission and impact—particularly board and staff—convey adequately the full story of what your organization does and the scope of services it provides?

Second, can a prospective donor easily understand from your public face—Web site, marketing materials, newsletter, etc.—why they should consider funding you?

If your response to either question is “No,” then you need to consider developing better messaging for your organization. Neglecting to do this can reduce your organization’s effectiveness in creating awareness, demonstrating its capabilities, and, of course, raising money.

The key to effective messaging is generating an understanding among donors of what your nonprofit can do for them and for your constituencies. Providing information on the full potential of your organization can help your nonprofit succeed and grow in all of the services it provides. Think of a multi-service agency that not only provides health therapy but also offers housing and job training for clients. Its fundraising potential is greater if it is known for all three parts of its mission.

Getting Started

The first step is to conduct research to understand your organization from different perspectives, focusing on its values, strengths, philosophy and approach, vision, key services, and impact in the community.

Communicate with different parties within the organization and survey individuals such as board members, staff, donors, and peers at partner organizations about what they think of your organization. What are the perceived strengths? Is this perception accurate? What you find may be helpful in improving your messages.

Once you have compiled your data, analyze the findings in comparison to what other organizations are doing and ask yourself if your organization is overlapping with another nonprofit or if it may be doing something different. Review the following questions:

  • What are some of the strengths of my organization and how can I highlight them?
  • What are the key points that best represent my organization?
  • What will attract donors to my organization?

The information that you have uncovered can be used as the basis of the development of your messaging. Also take into consideration how current trends in your sector can help position your organization for long-term growth and how identifying gaps in the marketplace can lead to opportunities for your organization.

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