In nonprofit messaging, consistency is key. Make sure your donors and stakeholders aren’t hearing different messages from different people in your organization.
From the reception desk to the board room, everyone in a nonprofit organization needs to understand and convey the same core message. Fragmented messaging confuses donors and stakeholders and muddies your mission. But really, you shouldn’t stop at just ensuring that everyone is voicing that same message. Each person needs to be telling the same story, amplifying the same vision, and ultimately acting as a true brand ambassador.
This doesn’t mean everyone should memorize and then regurgitate the same boilerplate elevator pitch. Canned verbiage and marketing speak are boring, uninspiring, and don’t resonate with the heart or the mind. People can tell when someone is reciting a script—and they immediately start tuning that person out.
So, what does draw people in? What makes them eager to keep listening? Passion, empathy, authenticity, and personality. That’s not to say boilerplate language can’t be delivered with passion. But the far better approach is for everyone at your nonprofit to understand your mission, message, and story, and then be able to articulate it in their own words. A slick spiel in marketing speak will never have the emotional resonance that someone speaking from the heart—their heart—will.
That’s what will stir someone’s heart in return!
But if that person hears a different message, however heartfelt, from each person they talk to at your organization, they’ll quickly go from moved to confused. They’ll lose sight of what your mission really is, and even begin to doubt that you have a clear vision or plan for achieving it. And once a person loses faith in your organization’s ability to fulfill your mission, they rapidly lose interest in partnering with you.
This leads us to a troublingly common way that nonprofits unknowingly sabotage themselves: people at all levels speak about the organization in glaringly different ways. All too often, it seems that no one took the time to ensure that everyone understands WHAT they do, HOW they do it, and (most importantly) WHY they do it.
If your staff can’t agree on what your organization’s message is, how can they be expected to present it cohesively? If you can’t tell the same story within your organization, how can you possibly share it with the world accurately? How can you stir hearts and minds, and inspire confidence in your ability to fulfill your mission?
That’s a whole bunch of rhetorical questions, so let’s get down to brass tacks. If you see your organization in this predicament, you need to start by nailing down exactly what your messaging should be, and what story you’re trying to tell. Before you can ensure that everyone is on the same page, you have to determine what that page says—and how it conveys your organization’s brand.
Take the first step towards determining your organization’s story by conducting a messaging and branding summit. This session should include key internal and external stakeholders and an outside facilitator, with the goal of helping build out a messaging map that can become the springboard for disseminating and inculcating the core brand message, your ethos, and WHY you exist.
Good luck, good messaging, and good storytelling!