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When one isn’t a lonely number

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Rebecca Ruby

Rebecca Ruby

Rebecca Ruby

You’ve got your eye on the year-end fundraising prize: Hitting your numbers.

It’s time to take your plans one step further by honing in on your content. And what is the foundation of your fundraising messaging? It’s your point of differentiation – the thing that makes your nonprofit the only one of its kind.

Taken from one of our new favorite books, “Zag” by Marty Neumeier, you need to determine your “onliness” (only-ness): “If you can’t say you’re the ‘only,’ go back and start over.”

Your unique value proposition will lead you down the path of effective messaging, and here’s a short staff and volunteers can do right away to figure it out:

Take a journalistic approach to determining your “onliness.” Break it down with the good ol’ five W’s and an H: Who are your constituents, what is your category, where are your constituents located, when do they need you, why are you important and how are you different?

Get an outside-insider’s opinion. Call up a volunteer and ask why he or she is involved with your organization and not Joe’s Other Advocacy Group down the street. You might be surprised what a little primary research will do for you. Your view of your differentiator might be way off from what your supporters see.

Complete this phrase: “Our nonprofit is the only _____ that _____.” This gets right to the core of why your organization exists in the first place. What does your animal shelter do that no one else’s does? What niche is your nonprofit filling for human services? What populations are you serving that no one else does, and how are you doing it differently?

Take your “onliness” statement from this last step and use it moving forward to help you make decisions. Will that new program you’re considering align with your statement? Does it really make sense for your organization and for subsequent communications? How can you position your organization in the year-end fundraising season?


Rebecca Ruby is a marketing specialist with Network for Good, and editor of The Learning Center.

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