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Choosing the Right Message for Your Nonprofit

This is a guest post by Erin Palmer, writer and editor for University Alliance. Let her know your thoughts in the comments!


Many nonprofit leaders make the mistake of thinking they don’t have the time or money to craft a media message – social or otherwise. The truth, however, is that you can’t afford NOT to. Your message is what resonates with people. It helps define your cause. It turns the general public into supporters and enlists them in the fight to meet your organizational goals and objectives. You can’t do it alone, so it is vital that you take the time to create an influential and powerful social media message that people will not only remember, but will actively share with others.

Why Your Message is Important

A consistent, concise and inspiring brand is the cornerstone of a successful nonprofit strategy. It can set you apart from all the rest of the clamor in the social media sphere and the countless requests to “like” this, buy that and donate here. Your look and message must be consistent across all channels, so it needs to be a finished package before going live on the Internet or in print. Piecemeal implementation of a brand image or message can quickly become a nightmare, so make sure everything is in place prior to publishing any new material online.

The right message attracts the attention of the right people, the people you need to help you get your work done. Of course that includes donors, but it also includes volunteers and advocates. Social media sharing is a very powerful instrument that can get your message in front of a massive amount of people. So before you even begin to brainstorm your external message, be sure your organization has a mission statement and internal objectives understood and agreed upon by staff and board alike.

Creating the Right Message

Once all stakeholders agree on exactly what the organization is trying to accomplish with its message, you can turn your attention to taking the actual steps to get there. A common way to get started is to brainstorm and prioritize your top three PR goals, the most important messages you need to send and the actions you want those messages to elicit in your target audience.

The next step is to craft your message. But what is the message? It isn’t just a mission or values statement, it is a variety of specialized tools working in unison to accomplish your communication goals, established above. You need to make your message stick. Your message should consist of a succinct, memorable slogan that appears on every page of your website and social media presence, all print materials, business cards and as a tagline on official email communication.

This is a good starting point because, counterintuitively, it is usually more difficult to write something short than to write something long. You will really have to exhaustively explore your organization to arrive at the 5-8 words that epitomize what you do.

Finalizing your organization’s slogan will leave you well positioned to then draft other materials that work in tandem with your slogan to give your target audience a better idea of who you are and what you do. A positioning statement, for example, is just a short paragraph, but its primary job is to set you apart from other nonprofits in your sector. What do you do better than anyone else and why should your audience care? Additionally, your social media strategy may also benefit from carefully crafted, standardized talking points that will help your supporters spread the word of your nonprofit.

Connecting with Your Audience

Your target audience is always with you, throughout the process of choosing your message. Effective communication is contingent on having specific goals, which include goals for those you are trying to reach. Knowing your audience is essential for creating a message that is relevant and interesting to them. You can waste a lot of time, effort and money trying to appeal to everyone, so narrow down your focus and concentrate on your target audience. Tailor your message, and the channels you choose to broadcast it, to reach the people who are most apt and able to help you meet organizational goals.

Relevance is key. Your message should focus on what your organization has in common with your target audience. What do you both value? Spotlight shared goals and objectives while highlighting how your nonprofit is best positioned to achieve them – with their help, of course.

When you are ready for the big rollout, plan to convey your targeted, audience-centered message consistently across all social media channels. Remember, an easily identifiable brand is essential to differentiating your organization from all the noise. Choose your social media platforms wisely. For instance, if you’re looking for a high-powered new board member, you may want to launch a search campaign via LinkedIn. Want to build buzz around breaking news? Take it to Twitter! Do you have images that speak a thousand words about your organization? Facebook and Pinterest are waiting for your uploads.

Creating the right message for your nonprofit requires you to take a step back from the daily grind and really think about the goals and causes of your organization. Be thoughtful; be introspective. Then put that intensive thought to practical use by creating a consistent message designed to capture the hearts and minds of the people who can best help your organization succeed.


Erin Palmer is a writer and editor for University Alliance which works with prestigious colleges such as Villanova University. Erin writes about the sort of business-related topics covered in Villanova University’s online MPA degree. The MPA program is beneficial to anyone working for nonprofits or within the public sector.


(photo credit)


SheriABell August 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Choosing the Right Message for Your Nonprofit via @maddiegrant @jeffespo #marketing

SemBarista August 23, 2012 at 12:47 am

RT @ShellyKramer Choosing the Right Message for Your Nonprofit via @maddiegrant

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