Is it Time for a Message Makeover?

What would happen if you got your staff or board together and asked them to give a short description of what your organization does? Would you get a variety of different answers?

Now take a look at some of your communication materials – fundraising letters, thank you letters, website etc. Are your messages consistent in all your materials? Are they written in clear, conversational language or are they filled with mind-numbing jargon?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then it’s time for a message makeover.

Create a message platform
Putting together a set of clear, consistent messages, also known as a message platform, is a good project for you to take on this summer.

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 come on board. All your materials need continuity and a single voice.

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 staff and board. Ask everyone a few key questions, such as:

  • Who is your target audience? You may need to cater different messages to different audiences.
  • What is important to them?

As you create your positioning statement and talking points, ask:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • Why is it important?
  • What makes your organization unique?
  • How are you making a difference for the people you serve and in the community?
  • What do you want to achieve?

Keep it simple
This may sound obvious, but your goal is to make sure your reader understands your message. Your messages should be clear, specific, and include a call to action. Again, they need to be conversational, so avoid using jargon. Most people respond better to a human interest story than a lot of statistics.

Your messages should not say something like – We make a difference for at-risk students. Instead, say Our volunteer tutors help students boost their reading and math skills so they’ll have a better chance to get into college.

Use language your donors will understand
Have someone outside your organization, a friend or family member, look at your messages. Something that’s clear to you may be confusing to others. What Does That Mean?

Stay consistent with a style guide
Continuing on the theme of consistency, I strongly recommend putting together a style guide. Create a Style Guide for Your Organization

Get everyone on board
A small group – marketing staff and board members with marketing experience – should put together the message platform and then introduce it to everyone else.

Resources
Here is some more information help to you create a message platform.

The 4 Cornerstones of Your Nonprofit Message Platform  

Build Your Message Team

Getting to Aha! The Nonprofit Marketer’s Top Challenge

Take some time this summer to make sure that your messages and materials are clear and consistent.


Before and After Kitchen Photo by Patrick via Flickr

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