You Must Clarify Your Message

Dec 18, 2018Message

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You must clarify your message if you want to raise money for your nonprofit – crisis or not

In fact, let me tell you my failed attempt of creating a clear and compelling message. 

While at the foundation, we created this beautiful brochure and solicitation mailing. The piece seemed ideal. Not only did we have great success stories, but also faces of a diverse group of students and colorful photos. It seemed we had all the “right” ingredients.

However, there was one problem — we had practically no response to the mailing.

One of our board members was a marketing expert. So I shared the mailing with him and asked for his opinion. He took no time at all to respond.  

He said “Nancy, your message is unclear. What do you want people to know? What do you want people to do? Your call to action is weak.”

Indeed, I learned a valuable lesson that day. My message was not clear NOR compelling. We merely had a beautiful marketing piece.

Clarify Your Message

Here’s a question for you: In looking at your current messaging, what do you want people to know? 

Additionally, what do you want people to do? Is your message clear? Is it compelling?

In this environment, you are likely trying to secure funds to cover budget shortfalls. You need funds to cover operating expenses or program expenses, for example.

Clearly communicating your message is critical and a first step if you want to raise money, certainly in this climate.

 Donald Miller, New York Times bestselling author of Building A Story Brand says, “Clarify your message so more customers listen.” 

 We value talented graphic designers who create brochures, websites, and presentation slides. 

 However, you must clarify your message because no one will listen if your message is not clear. 

 Consequently, all anyone hears is noise.

4-Part Framework for Crafting Clear and Compelling Messages


Moreover, can you state the message about your nonprofit in a way it is memorable? Does it resonate with the person or persons standing in front of you? Are people confused and unclear about what you do as an organization?

 Absolutely, every nonprofit leader can create clear and compelling messages. 

What follows is the framework for crafting messages for your nonprofit so potential donors will listen. 

Let’s look at the components of creating clear and compelling messages.

#1 Identify your Identity

Absolutely, you want to state who you are as an organization at a very basic level.

This is not about reciting your mission statement.

To guide you, answer the question, “Who are you as an organization? ” Think, “What kind of agency are you? What are you known for? What is your reason for existing?” 

Be able to state who you are in ten words or less. 

An example would be: We are an animal protection agency.

#2 Identify the Problem or Need Being Addressed

Without question, every nonprofit exists to solve a problem or address a need. You are trying to fill that gap.

But how do you convey the problem or need you are addressing succinctly and in a compelling way?

Consider If I moved to your community from another state or country, how would you explain in very simple terms, who you are and what problems or needs you are addressing?

No doubt, you may assume we know what your organization does because we are familiar with it. But that’s NOT TRUE! No assumptions here. 

People don’t know what your organization does just because the name is familiar. You want to identify words that will resonate when you talk about the problem or need. Most importantly, you want to state with straightforward and compelling language why you exist.

Needless to say, some of you are solving many problems, but try to identify just one overarching problem to start. 

An example would be: We end cruelty, torture, & suffering of all animals.

#3 Share the Solution

Share how you are addressing the problem or need. People don’t know unless you tell them. 

Nevertheless, we often talk in industry jargon and don’t consider the person standing in front of us really doesn’t know what our organization does and how we are solving the problem. We must tell them.

Now, think about how solving the problem or addressing the need makes people feel. Are they hopeful, proud, or optimistic maybe? Do they want to see the problem or need addressed? Clearly know why the problem is important to solve. 

Do you see where I am going with this?

Above all, think about peoples’ emotions when describing the solution to the problem. Know what the donor is thinking and feeling. You are identifying words to use so when you share the solution, you do it so it resonates with people.

Unquestionably, this draws them in and helps them see themselves as being part of the solution. They can become a hero for your organization. 

First and foremost, you are helping someone deeply passionate about your mission make a difference.

An example of a solution is: We rescue animals from disaster situations and place them in loving homes.

#4 Describe the Transformation

You want to Identify a person or place that has benefited from your work. 

Definitely, secure their words from an interview or testimony. Then retell their story repeatedly in conversations, newsletters, and social media, for example.

Use storytelling to describe the before and after of a person or place that conveys the impact of your work.

Without a doubt, storytelling is powerful and allows your mission to come alive. It connects people to the work you do and inspires them to give.

In Summary

In summary, after you incorporate these components into your communications, your messaging will be clear and compelling! 

I want you to try to clarify your message!  

Consider it your organization’s value proposition.  

Clearly, you will only see increased engagement from potential donors if you incorporate a clear and compelling message in your conversations and materials.  

Other must reads for fundraisers:

Do I Really Ask for Major Gifts Right Now?

Nonprofits are Hurting Themselves in 4 Ways

Are you Failing as a Nonprofit Leader?

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising guide. She provides overwhelmed nonprofit leaders with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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