Nonprofit organizations are particularly good at (or bad at) stating more than really needs to be said. Perhaps it is a side effect of trying to survive in a grantmaking environment where overcommunicating is more than the norm - it's the expectation. Grant applications ask tough (if not unreasonable) questions, and nonprofit professionals find themselves wordsmithing their way into a proposal that talks of sustainability and outcome measures on services and programs that are intrinsically unmeasurable and fundamentally unsustainable. But, beware that your tendency to overstate and expand upon doesn't carry over into your external marketing activities.
I recently saw an ad for a nonprofit organization that read like a book report. It was 5.5 x 8.5 with no images or design elements, and was laden with text. Even the text was boring. It talked about the organization's early beginnings, about its capital campaign 30 years ago, and boasted a valuable staff. The first thought I had after seeing the ad wasn't about how strong of a history the organization had or admiration of its fiscal responsibility. The first thought I had was simply, "Who cares?" That thought was quickly followed by, "They actually paid to print that?"
When engaging in marketing activities that are aimed at informing and motivating donors to contribute, potential clients to call, or volunteers to get involved, nonprofit organizations need to exercise a certain amount of simple communication.
Think. What is worth highlighting? What fact or tidbit is interesting to Joe Community Member, and how can you craft it in such a way within your marketing piece that it is interesting, eye-catching and valuable? Here are five strategies for making your communications clear and your marketing pieces worth reading:
1. Address the "Who Cares?" Factor
When working with your text, ask yourself whether the facts and information you are incorporating into your ad copy or press release is interesting and relevant to someone outside of your organization. You have a small window of opportunity to catch the eye of the peruser. Don't waste that opportunity explaining the origins of your organization or the details of your strategic plan. Captialize on that moment with what matters most: who are you, what do you want them to know, and how can they get involved?
2. Stop the Grant-Speak
Nonprofits tend to have their own set of vocabulary, words like "outcome," "donor," "invest," "impact" and "sustainability." Avoid grant-speak in your advertising. Instead of asking someone to "Become a donor today and impact the lives of underprivileged children," you could say "Give today and impact the lives of tomorrow." Speak their language and you will have a better chance of being heard.
3. Keep it Brief
More than ever before, the consumer's attention is divided. We are multi-tasking media consumers. Your television ad fights the remote every time it comes on, your web ad runs against the quick search toolbar every time it rotates, your print ad gets buried on page 11 next to three others. It's more important now than ever before to keep your message concise and to craft brief - yet strong - highlights and points.
4. A Matter of the Heart
The most effective way to touch a person with the value of involvement with your organization is through emotional response. People give based on emotional stimulation. Emotional involvement is what drives passion and commitment. Emotional messages capture the attention, and when someone's attention is captured they are sure to tell someone else. Use quotes from a client who has been helped by your organization. Tell their story and let them do the selling.
5. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
In the end, the most cleverly crafted tagline or message will be overshadowed by a moving or shocking photo. You want to capture their attention? Do it visually. Your images will get them to stop, then your text can follow-up with the information you need to communicate. Be aware of the importance design plays in any marketing piece you put out.
Your marketing pieces need you to focus on fresh ways of communicating your organization's impact, importance and opportunity for involvement. The first step is to simplify the way you communicate to your audience.
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