Bringing Power and Clarity to Nonprofit Communications


Say It Right: How Effective Messaging Can Improve Fundraising Results

Say It Right: How Effective Messaging Can Improve Fundraising Results

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Melanie Scheetz was frustrated. So was her board at the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition. The executive director had spent the last 10 years at the Coalition, but if you asked her, or her board members, "So what's the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition?" they often weren't sure what to say. Most likely, they responded with a laundry list of programs and services.

"It was frustrating, because I knew we had a great story but I just couldn't tell it. The board was frustrated too. We are all so committed to what we do, but we struggled to describe the organization in a compelling way."

501creative worked with the Coalition to develop brainstorming sessions with the board and staff to address this issue. We looked at their strengths, their audiences and their audiences' values. From there, we created a new tagline, verbal messaging, and a branding statement — a four-page document that outlines the new verbal messaging and was distributed to all board and staff.

So what's changed? "Everything," according to Melanie.

The confidence to make the big ask
As an ED, Melanie says that strategic planning without additional branding is "ridiculous and useless. We would spend all this time figuring out what's important for us to do, what we should be doing to expand and reach our mission, and we'd leave it there. We needed to learn how to talk about it to the community."

After the messaging work was complete, the Coalition started a major gifts program and raised $45,000 in seven weeks. "Before, we would just talk about our programs and show our financials. Now we make a compelling case that donors are responding to. Branding helped us believe in ourselves, it gave us confidence. When talking about our agency now, it's on the tip of our tongue. It gives everyone a reason to work with us. It's in our subconscious."


Does YOUR organization need stronger messaging?
Can you answer these questions...What do you do? What makes you a good investment? How is your organization different from other organizations? 

If those questions are hard to answer or you think members of your organization might answer them differently, consider rethinking your message.

Don't get left behind
Nonprofits are becoming savvy at branding and messaging. Don't want be left out because you cannot explain why your organization is a good investment.

It can be more economical than you think to review current messaging and determine these things:
1. What you say about your organization
2. What makes you different from others in the marketplace
3. Who is listening
4. Why it matters to them

By developing solid messaging, you will be able to address various audiences or donor groups that have different needs, motivations and agendas. As a good storyteller, you will transcend demographics. Everyone loves a good story.

What we do
At 501creative, we work with a broad-based team (board, staff, committee, volunteers), to determine who you are and what makes you different and to create messages that can be tailored to specific audiences. This makes it easier for your organization to create a compelling case in person or in writing. It makes grant writing easier. It creates cohesion.  

Although we help many nonprofits with their messaging and visual image, we did not do any visual branding work for the Coalition. We then looked at its current materials and made adjustments to bring those pieces in line with the messaging. We often think of branding as a complete overall, visual and verbal, and that can be the case, but it doesn't always have to be. With the Coalition, we focused on the verbal, because that's where the need was greatest.

If you think you need stronger messaging, we can help. Contact Karen to learn more.