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.

At the heart of launching a successful fundraising drive is an effective email campaign. Be sure that your donor solicitation efforts achieve your revenue goals by following these best practices for your next email fundraising campaign.

#1: Be sure those you’re soliciting know what to expect. Donors and others you’re soliciting don’t like to be surprised by more or less emails than they anticipate. Let email recipients know right from the start what information you’ll be sending them, and how often. This goes for your regular monthly eNewsletters, and other email communications, including fundraising emails.

#2: Don’t Over-Promise Then Under-Deliver. In order to increase open rates, sometimes development marketers promise the moon with deceptive subject lines, then fail to deliver on the promise. Remember, open rates are only one criteria for judging the success of your email fundraising campaign. Conversion rates (or how often your recipients take action as a result of your email) are the real test of the effectiveness of your email solicitations. If you don’t deliver on the promise of your subject line, then your donors and prospective donors might decide to give elsewhere.

#3: Personalize Your Emails, But Vet the Information First. Personalizing emails is an effective strategy; however, it’s counterproductive if the name on the email isn’t right. Be sure to vet the information for accuracy, before doing a blanket SEND to your email marketing list.

#4: Segment Your Mailing List: Email segmenting can be very effective for target marketing to various demographic groups. You can segment your list by age, marital status, income level, when a donor is in the giving cycle, etc., and send content and messages that appeal directly to each specific segment.

#5: Test The Effectiveness of Your Emails Before You Send Them. In addition to testing personalization, you can also test the effectiveness of your emails by testing which pieces of content, calls to action and subject lines have the highest click-through rates. Divide your email list into two equal groups and send an A/B split test of your email to see which performs best.

#6: Focus on Content Versus Donations. When the main topic of your email is ‘Donate Now’ versus content that’s of interest to your supporters, your email fundraising campaign could come up short. Focus the content of your emails on what’s of interest to your supporters from their point of view. Establish trust and make an emotional connection before you close for greater impact and results.

#7: Include a Call to Action (CTA). The key to any effective solicitation is having one or multiple calls to action in your email. A call to action is some actionable, concrete next step for your donor or prospective donor to take that brings them into the fold of your organization, and ultimately, closer to writing a check, or making a donation online. Some examples of calls to action include:

  • Learn How You Can Help
  • Click to Volunteer
  • Sign Up for Our Monthly Newsletter
  • Volunteer Today
  • Donate Now.

#8: Proof and Reproof for Spelling and Grammar Errors. Donors often judge an organization by what’s in the details, i.e., whether or not your marketing and fundraising communications are error-free. If you’re the author of an email or eNewsletter, be sure to proofread your draft multiple times for spelling and grammar errors. Then, ask a colleague that has a keen eye for detail to proofread the copy again, and again.  Online tools such as grammarly.com can also help.