From launching a compelling fundraising campaign, to posting engaging social media, effective messaging is key to the success of your nonprofit’s member & donor engagement, and fundraising efforts. 

What is messaging? Messaging is the content your organization uses to explain what you offer to various demographic groups or target markets, and what differentiates your offering from other nonprofits in your industry and region. Without effective messaging that’s clear, concise, engaging and inspires action, an organization’s marketing and fundraising efforts probably won’t hit the mark. Follow these simple steps for developing compelling messaging that works.

#1. Survey your members, donors, constituents and staff. 

An underutilized resource for developing effective messaging is right within your organization: your members, donors, constituents and staff. An excellent way to begin a messaging audit is to develop a simple survey canvassing ‘ambassadors’ of your organization for their feedback about what makes your offering different and compelling, and why they’re involved with your organization. Ask the group you’re soliciting to define in one or two sentences how they’d describe your offering to others, and why they’re passionate about their involvement with your organization. MailChimp www.mailchimp.com has a simple, widely-used survey tool that will help.

#2: Make a bulleted list of your organization’s core offering. 

Make a bulleted list of what your organization offers to your target market(s). As a service oriented nonprofit, for example, you might offer social services to lower income families, including direct financial assistance through loans and grants, mentoring and job coaching, and access to other social services resources. Be as specific as possible, listing the services in order of those you provide most to various types of constituents by category (members, donors, other constituent groups) to those you provide least.

#3: Make a bulleted list of all those qualities about your nonprofit that are unique, differentiating and compelling–based on results of the survey. 

This is one of the most important elements of developing effective messaging. Here, zero in on what makes your organization’s offering stand out from the competition. It might be your desirable location, or your dedicated membership committee that actively helps members connect in with other members. One area nonprofit differentiates itself as an ‘historic’ nonprofit through its affiliation with a local state park. This provides the organization with a large ‘campus’ of venues for their theatre productions that’s not visible from the street–a definite differentiator they should highlight in their messaging.

#4: Make a bulleted list of your target market(s). 

This is who your organization primarily markets your services to.  It might be other businesses, individual consumers, the elderly, families with children, or Millenials. List target audiences in order of priority, beginning with those your organization serves most frequently to those you serve least frequently.

#5: Review the lists above, and highlight those items that best describe what your organization offers, and what your survey identified as unique and differentiating about your nonprofit.

The next step is to highlight those items in each of the lists you feel best describe your organization’s core offering and differentiate your nonprofit from the competition. You’ll begin to see common themes and attributes emerge as you build your core messaging.

#6: Draft clear, concise copy and content from the summary descriptions you’ve identified as common themes and attributes about your organization and offering.

Draft copy that weaves together items from the highlighted summary list as clearly, concisely and engagingly as possible. Less is more when it comes to copy. Review and make edits to ensure the content is as brief as possible, includes images, bullets, bold faced words and phrases, and overall reads well. This is your core messaging.

#7: Use  your core messaging throughout all your organization’s marketing and fundraising communications, and social media and public relations channels. 

After you develop your core messaging, the next essential component of your organization’s messaging audit is to then review your website, all of your existing marketing and fundraising communications, and social media and public relations channels to be sure that your core message is consistent throughout. It’s this consistency that will create a clear and indelible description of your organization and what it offers that will equip and inspire your current members, donors and other constituents to be better ambassadors for your nonprofit. This approach will also engage and inspire new target audiences to take some kind of desired action: become a member or volunteer, work here and most importantly, donate.

Here are the marketing essentials every nonprofit organization or business needs in 2017 to be a real player at the table.

Conduct a marketing audit. A lot can happen in a year, so it’s important to review your marketing approach at least annually to be sure that it’s still working to attract your target customers, and meet your organizational and revenue goals. Items in the audit should include: your messaging–how well you’re defining and communicating your offering and how this differs from your competitors, your website–is your message easily accessible to viewers quickly on their mobile devices, and does it inspire them to take some kind of action; your marketing materials–it might make sense to convert hardcopy marketing materials into digital ones that are less costly to produce and easier to share; your online profile–it’s essential to have your organization listed on at multiple directories online, such as Google Verify and Yelp. Not doing this can make your organization nearly invisible during searches; your social media approach–this includes a lot more today than just Facebook.

Revise your messaging so your offering is clear and differentiating. Your target customers and constituents need to clearly understand what your organizations offers, how it applies to their needs, how it differs from competitors, and inspires some kind of next step. Often this means simply adding a tagline to your logo, business card, email signature and website to define what your business does, making your telephone number more visible with a live link and including a traveling Contact Us box that moves with the viewer during website visits.

Have a mobile-optimized website that viewers can grasp within 7 to 10 seconds. Today, more than 60% of the population is said to use their hand-held devices to make buying decisions and execute online transactions. This means it’s essential that your website be mobile-optimized across all types of mobile devices. It’s also important that your website home page convey what you offer and how to take advantage of your services within about 7 to 10 seconds. “That’s the average length of time most viewers take nowadays to look at a website and decide to take action, or not,” per Dale Shadbegian, Principal of 118Group, a Cape-based web development and social media firm. “You have less time than ever these days to capture the attention of your visitors, before they move on to the competition. This means your website should load quickly, have large readable fonts, allow adequate white space for digesting content, and should be ‘mobile-optimized’ to load and be easily viewed across all mobile devices.”

Have a digital marketing and social media strategy. Having a digital marketing and social media strategy to strengthen your organization’s profile and visibility, and being active on social media will help to position your organization well online. “Becoming Google Verified is the best step toward getting on the virtual map,” offers Shadbegin. “Gaining this first level of Internet credibility and getting better exposure on search engines is essential today. In addition to Google Verify, there are approximately a dozen or more directories such as YELP that an organization should be listed on to ensure a strong online profile.” Outreach to new clients through social media is the next step for your organization to let prospective clients, members, constituents and sponsors know you’re ‘open and ready’ for business. Facebook and Instagram continue to be the hottest B2C (business to consumer) channels, while LinkedIn continues to remain the top B2B (business to business) platform. “It’s not enough these days to just post an event or photo occasionally on Facebook or Instagram. For those in the industry, we know there’s a lot of back office strategy, measurement and monitoring tools and trial and error research needed to be visible and effective on social media,” concludes Shadbegian.

Get your content out there. These days, content truly is king. As part of your messaging audit, be sure that the content you’re posting on your website blog, social media, in e-newsletters and email marketing emphasizes your core offering and what differentiates your organization. Choose four or five topics that solidify your offering and showcase your expertise, and post these monthly and concurrently on all of your marketing channels. Repetition of this core content is key to getting the attention of search engines, and building a strong brand.

 

Here are suggestions from several nonprofits that recently took a fresh look at their member benefits and are making improvements to differentiate their member offering.

Be Proactive. Noelle Pina, Executive Director of the Orleans Chamber of Commerce, has spent the past year reviewing the Chamber’s member benefits with an eye toward improving the overall member experience. “Our list of tangible member benefits has grown,“ says Pina, “and we’ve created a game plan for members to best use their chamber membership. This includes sending a welcome packet and scheduling one-on-one meetings. We’ve also tried to be proactive by adding new events, online tools and networking opportunities for our members.” In addition to these improvements, the Chamber recently added a new Mini Business Expo this year with several members reporting that they closed business as a result of their involvement. “A future goal of mine,” says Pina, “is to also add New Member Receptions to our calendar, and provide quarterly meetings for new members to learn about their membership and meet other new members.”

Leverage Your Brand Champions. Cultivating champions of their organization and brand is part of the work of every nonprofit and business. “There are champions of your brand who truly appreciate the hard work you do and will support your organization with time, talent or treasure,” says Pina. “Over the years, we’ve cultivated great relationships with our local supporters. In 2017, we plan to deepen our connection by telling the stories of selected member/champions through member spotlights and retail spotlights—leading to an attraction of similar businesses to the Chamber. In this way, we can also cultivate referrals from our current members by publicly thanking them for supporting us.”

Schedule a One-On-One Membership Review Meeting: The best way to engage new members, including other nonprofits and business owners is to have a face-to-face meeting with them annually to review their promotional goals for the organization. With this approach, you can more easily make the case that your organization’s member benefits (or sponsorships) can help members reach many of their promotional goals. This takes a bit of pre-planning before the meeting. However, it but can be very productive for strengthening the member relationship, addressing the member’s promotional goals, and paving the way for potential sponsorships down the road. In addition, as many organizations traditionally spend a significant amount of money on advertising that often yields minimal results, you’ll be helping members by providing a more tailored promotional program through their membership.

Launch a Dedicated Membership Committee. Cape Cod Young Professionals’ Executive Director, Anne Van Vleck, understands the importance of having a dedicated membership committee for their nonprofit. CCYP recently launched a new membership committee that attends the organization’s monthly and annual events, such as the popular, Back to Business Bash, to proactively cultivate new members, and answer membership questions for existing members. This year, CCYP also created an ‘at-a-glance’ membership and sponsorship rack card available at all events. The membership committee uses these to quickly engage potential members, and explain the benefits of membership that relate to their business or nonprofit.

Leverage Your Facility: Lauren Wolk, Assistant Executive Director of The Cultural Center of Cape Cod, is in a unique position to leverage her recently expanded facility that now includes a commercial kitchen, large meeting and performance space, and art, photography and recording studios. With these improvements, Wolk is able to offer creative opportunities for members to gain visibility for their organization and build employee teams. Per Wolk, this year The Cultural Center hosted several team-building events including paint and wine nights for company employees, a variety of business seminars and various client appreciation events. Banks and other Chambers of Commerce and networking groups such as BNI also use The Cultural Center to hold regular monthly meetings.

Think Like a Business Owner. Business owners are always looking for creative ways to gain visibility for their companies through a nonprofit’s network and member benefits. Owners are more likely to become a member of a nonprofit that understands what they’re looking for to promote their business. “Supporting a nonprofit that can help me rally their network of supporters to learn more about my business makes it easier for me to make the investment,” comments Dales Shadbegian, Principal of 118Group, a Cape-based web design and social media firm. Shadbegian says he looks for value in a business membership that includes at a minimum free or reduced passes at events, a link on the organization’s website and social media and e-newsletter mentions or spotlights. “If the organization also sponsors interesting events where I can bring a client, friend, child or close relative, the more likely I am to become a member, and be actively involved,’ concludes Shadbegian. “This way, I can balance a business activity with a more social one.”

 

At this time of Thanksgiving and giving, many Cape nonprofits are reaching out to donors to encourage them to support the good work of their organizations.

One nonprofit that serves the Cape’s young professionals, Cape Cod Young Professionals, (CCYP) recently launched a Giving Circle so that CCYP members and sponsors could pool their donations and fund selected programs throughout the Cape that aid young professionals as they build lives on Cape Cod. These initiatives directly support CCYP’s mission.

CCYP’s take on Giving Circles is unique, however, as their giving circle actually benefits other nonprofits through direct grants, and creates awareness of the community work of these organizations. In 2016, CCYP’s Giving Circle gave back $10,000 during its first year to area nonprofits to fund specific initiatives that directly support CCYP’s mission. These included Cape Cod YMCA, We Can, Housing Assistance Corporation, Community Development Partnership and Cape Cod Community College. “People that become part of CCYP’s Giving Circle learn about many other nonprofits and their programs that may not have heard about these through each organization’s annual fundraising process,” commented Matt Cronin, CCYP Board Chair, and President of Boardwalk Business Group. “Over the past year, the creation of the CCYP Giving Circle has allowed us to collectively have a greater impact in our community. Through the donations of giving circle members, we’ve been able to invest in wonderful nonprofit programs within our community – from assisting women starting their own businesses, to supporting at risk youth to become the first in their families to attend to college, and from free fiscal health programs to online first-time homebuyer programs and the creation of a new community engagement speaker series.”

The impact of giving back to the community and Cape nonprofits has recently caught the attention of an anonymous donor to CCYP’s Giving Circle. CCYP received a $10,000 matching grant–facilitated by The Cape Cod Foundation–from an individual that was impressed by the impact the CCYP Giving Circle has already had in its first year. With this matching grant, CCYP is now actively soliciting donations from other individuals interested in funding causes that support young adults on Cape Cod. Giving Circle members typically commit to donating $10, $20 or $50 per month toward the fund. CCYP’s partnership with The Cape Cod Foundation has provided the necessary administrative infrastructure for CCYP’s Giving Circle, per Cronin. He emphasizes that utilizing a partner such as The Cape Cod Foundation that has the infrastructure in place is essential for CCYP to administer the giving circle.

Dara Gannon, Program Officer for The Cape Cod Foundation, commented about the Foundation’s role in helping CCYP’s giving circle efforts. “The Cape Cod Foundation is thrilled to partner with CCYP on the Giving Circle. This initiative supports CCYP’s mission by engaging members in the community. Through the giving circle process, we are creating informed citizens who are making funding decisions, collectively, on issues that affect them. By building permanent charitable resources and leveraging our community knowledge and grant making expertise, the CCYP Giving Circle is also supporting the Foundation’s mission. Together we are sustaining CCYP now and in the future, as well as growing the next generation of philanthropists and civic leaders on Cape Cod.”