How Are You Making a Difference?

When nonprofit organizations reach out to donors and other supporters to share accomplishments, I often see something like the examples below.  (All names are fictitious).

We started a community garden in the Westside neighborhood.

Youth First just opened a new activity center for our afterschool program.

We received a $50,000 grant from the Jones Foundation.

A Place to Call Home found affordable housing for over 100 families last year.

These are okay on one level, but they are more focused on activities than accomplishments.  They don’t answer the question – How are you making a difference for the people you serve?

Focus on why rather than what
When you are communicating with donors, think about why your accomplishments are important.

Instead of just reporting that you have started a community garden, emphasize how that will make a difference.  Now neighborhood residents have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, which are often not available at nearby stores or are too expensive.

Instead of just noting that your afterschool program has a brand new activity center, demonstrate that you are providing a safe place for young people to interact and learn new skills.

Of course, publically acknowledging your major funders is important, but what will that $50,000 grant be used for?  How will it help people?

What does it mean for the families who you helped find affordable housing?  Show how a family that was living in a shelter or with relatives now has a place they can call home.

Be conversational and personal
Draw in your reader with something personal.  Use stories, quotes, and testimonials, as well as photos and videos.  Go easy on the statistics and avoid using jargon.  

When you tell a story, choose a protagonist – an individual or family- and give them a name. You can change their names to protect their privacy.

This post by Katya Andreson is about mission statements, but can apply to all your communications. How do I make my mission sound more exciting?  She recommends giving your messages a heartbeat, which I think is great advice.  She also says, Always answer the question, at the end of the day, whose life is better for what we do?” 

Many people donate because they have a personal connection to your cause.  Don’t bore them with a lot of long-winded facts.

They want to see how you are making a difference. 

Work with program staff to find stories
Often development and marketing staff don’t have firsthand knowledge of how your organization is making a difference.  This is why you need to work with program staff to create compelling stories and testimonials.  

Come up with a system that won’t make anyone feel overburdened.  Let’s Work Together – The Importance of a Good Relationship with the Program Department 

Show your donors how they are helping you make a difference
Finally, don’t forget to thank your donors and let them know that they are a key to your success.  After all, you wouldn’t be able to make a difference for the people you serve without their support.

How is your organization making a difference?
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