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Nonprofit messaging: Keys to reaching your audience

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Craig Haubrich

Craig Haubrich

Craig Haubrich

[Publisher’s note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

As the demand for a donor’s dollar increases, the importance of distinguishing your organization from others has become increasingly relevant.

For many organizations, prospects and donors do not have personal knowledge of a nonprofit’s day-to-day activities, so they depend upon communications when making decisions about where to contribute.

Fundraising solicitations often involve a full spectrum of messages. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

What is a problem though, is when multiple messages fail to relate to the organization’s mission statement. Messaging that is inconsistent or fragmented results in donor confusion and ultimately in reduced donations.

A review of nonprofit messaging across a broad spectrum of organizations identified three common themes:

  • Fundraising messages are not aligned with the organization’s message.
  • Multiple stakeholders are delivering messages on behalf of the organization.
  • Ineffective use of social media to deliver an organization’s message.

Alignment with organizational messaging

In many large nonprofits, there is often a gap between the message conveyed publicly and the message conveyed to prospects and donors due to the messages having different origins.

In smaller organizations, this same gap appears but it is generally a result of fundraisers crafting their own message because the organizational message may not connect with prospects and donors.

No matter what the circumstance, an organization must present itself in a unified fashion. Prospects and donors only see one organization – they don’t see the inner complexities that result in different messages.

The messages conveyed from within the organization must be consistent and be aligned around one central principle. Does every message have to be identical? No. However, every message must be clearly associated with the organization.

Leveraging your representatives

It is easy to regulate the message that is conveyed in printed collateral. Not as easy, though, is regulating messages delivered by your physicians, faculty members, board members, volunteers or others.

Work with your non-fundraising representatives to ensure they are delivering messages that are consistent with the organization’s message.

Often, self-motivated intentions drive the messages that your representatives deliver. It is not possible to control the messages that every representative will deliver, but it is important to educate your representatives.

Representatives of the organization must understand they all play a role in fundraising. They may be some of your greatest advocates, but they may also be your biggest liabilities if they are delivering the wrong message.

Social media: Using your full arsenal

Depending on only traditional channels to deliver your message is no longer an effective approach.

Your audience has become increasingly dependent upon social media to obtain their information, so it is important that you utilize social media to deliver your message.

The days of delivering one single message based exclusively on your organization’s mission statement have come and gone due to the need to connect with multiple segments.

I encourage organizations to take a step back, look at the communications donors and prospects are receiving, and really reevaluate if they are connecting with the mission.


Craig Haubrich is a senior consultant with Blackbaud.

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