Does Your Nonprofit Need New Key Messages?

4 min read

Clear and consistent messaging is a driving force behind the success of your brand, and your brand is a driving force behind the success of your mission. In order to effectively convey who you are and what you do –– so you can continue to do more of it –– everyone at your organization needs to embody and represent your values, your messaging and your brand.

This doesn’t mean everyone on your team needs to parrot an elevator speech. It means people from throughout your organization have been engaged in developing your messaging to incorporate varied perspectives. Then, everyone at your nonprofit will have the framework they need to consistently talk about your work and your mission, and the power to personalize it.

While there are many reasons your organization might consider refreshing your messaging, here are a few of the most common we hear at Prosper Strategies:

“Everyone talks about our organization differently.”

In almost every case where a nonprofit is considering new messaging, it’s because people are talking about the organization inconsistently. This can be because you provide a wide breadth of services, and so the answer changes depending on who you ask. Or, it can signal something bigger, like mission misalignment. If those closest to your nonprofit describe your work inconsistently, it almost certainly means there is confusion among outside audiences, like donors and clients, about what you do. Revisiting your messaging can be a positive step toward creating the necessary internal alignment needed to convey a strong external brand.

For instance, one social services organization we work with provides more than 30 critical family and child support programs in their community. As a result, staff and volunteers often only describe the nonprofit through the lens of their work, not the organization’s broader mission. Leadership recognized that in order to continue to grow their awareness and recruit qualified staff and volunteers, they needed to empower those within the organization to communicate consistently about their work and impact. The nonprofit now not only has a set of key messages, but the board, volunteers and staff are participating in key message training, so everyone has the ability to serve as a brand advocate.

Revisiting your messaging can be a positive step toward creating the necessary internal alignment needed to convey a strong external brand. Click To Tweet

“Our traditional funding streams are changing.”

Whether it’s diminishing government dollars, tax regulations or a changing donor base, there’s no question that the way nonprofits are funded looks different today than it did ten or even five years ago. And funding streams are just going to continue to change. To keep pace and, more importantly, advance your mission, you’re going to need to identify, reach and interest new audiences, donors and supporters. This likely means you need to revisit your messaging to ensure it is resonant with those who most need to hear it.

To share context, one of our nonprofit clients was heavily reliant on state government funding. When Illinois was without a complete state budget for more than two years, this had a significant negative impact on their ability to provide mission-critical support to their clients. While they were able to stay afloat during the impasse, the experience led them to make the important decision to diversify their funding streams and become less reliant on state funding. In order to do this, they updated their key messages to appeal more widely to corporate partners and sponsors as well as individual donors.

Revisit your messaging to ensure it is resonant with those who most need to hear it. Click To Tweet

“Our organization is entering a new chapter.”

You’re expanding your mission, offering new services or adopting a more specific focus. Maybe what you’ve done over the years has changed to better meet the needs of your clients, or you’ve honed in on what your organization is best at delivering. These can all be indications it’s time to revisit your messaging.

As an example, we work with a nonprofit that started more than four decades ago as a homeless shelter. However, over the years, the organization’s work has become about so much more than providing someone a bed. The nonprofit now has outreach programs and offers mental health services, job training, financial education and transitional housing. As they expanded their breadth of services, they needed to update their messaging to better reflect what they offer to clients today –– a pathway to stability, permanent housing and a future with promise.

Scenarios like these play out in nonprofits all the time. If change is afoot at your organization, you should consider updating your messaging so your communications are reflective of your goals and aligned with your strategic plan.

If your staff isn’t aligned around your brand, it’s likely you need new key messages.

Getting each and every one of your internal stakeholders (leadership, staff, volunteers and board members) on the same page about your organization’s brand and your key messages is necessary before communicating your brand externally. You can use our template survey to assess your organization’s internal brand alignment.

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