Get Organized This Summer- Make Your Messages Clear and Consistent

Image by Thiago Esser via Flickr

Over the course of the summer, I am offering tips to help you get organized during what may be a slower time, and prepare for a busy fall.  

All nonprofit organizations need a clear set of consistent messages to use in their fundraising and marketing materials, but many do not have these.  According to a recent survey by Nancy Schwartz from Getting, only 24% of respondents said their messages connect with their target audiences. It makes you wonder how much time nonprofits invest in messaging. Marketing Consultant Chuck English wonders the same thing. Nonprofits don’t care about marketing
Create a message platform
Does your organization need a message makeover?  Putting together a set of clear, consistent messages, also known as a message platform, may take some time up front, but it will be time well spent.  Now whenever you create a fundraising letter or content for your website, you can draw material from this set of messages.  Having a consistent set of messages is essential when you have more than one person writing for your organization and as new staff or volunteers join you.  All your materials need continuity and a single voice.

The links below will help you create a message platform. Everyone in your organization – staff, board, volunteers –  is a message ambassador, and needs to be involved.  Although, that doesn’t mean they should be involved in every step of the process.

You may want to get some initial input from the staff and board.  Ask everyone a few key questions, such as:

  • What do we do?
  • Who do we serve?
  • Why are we important?
  • How are we unique?
  • What impact do we make?

If their answers are all across the board, then you have a lot of work to do.
A small group – marketing staff and board members with marketing experience – should put together the message platform and then introduce it to everyone else.  You may not be able to finish this in the summer due to people’s vacation schedules, but at least you can get started.

The 4 Cornerstones of an Engaging Message Platform

Create a style guide
Continuing on the theme of consistency, I strongly recommend putting together a style guide.  A style guide can cover both elements of your written material (editorial) and the look of your materials (design). You can put your parts of your message platform in here, too, once you complete it.
It shouldn’t take you a lot of time to put together a style guide and it doesn’t need to be long document.  However, it will save you a lot of time in the end.  It’s a huge help if you don’t know whether or not to use a serial comma, or what fonts you should use in your materials.  Again, this is important if you have more than one person writing for your organization, or if you use volunteers who aren’t there full-time.   

Overall, it ensures that your materials will have a consistent message and look.
Take some time this summer to make sure that your messages and materials are clear and consistent.

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