Note: If you are working your way through the 9 Action Steps to a Successful Nonprofit, this article and Worksheet will help you with Steps 2, 6, 8, and 9. It can also help you with your Mission Statement.

Consistent messaging is one of the most important activities you will perform in your marketing and fundraising communications and strategies. Paying attention to what you say to your donors and how you say it will bring them to your nonprofit organization and keep them coming back. When you get the messaging right, you will connect to your donors on a very personal basis which, in turn, means more donations and deeper connections. Remember, fundraising is about relationships first and money second.
If you aren’t familiar with messaging, it is a concept or idea you want your donors to understand. It also conveys the feelings you want your donors to experience.

Why Consistent Messaging?

I mentioned messaging is one of the most important activities you will perform in your marketing and fundraising. Why? There are several reasons. First, consistent messaging helps connect your donors with your mission. Emotional stories are often one of the greatest connectors we have to the things we love. Think about the story of how you met your significant other or how your parents met. What do you feel when you hear the story again? Your organization can tell wonderful stories (which is a form of messaging) that can evoke feelings of anger, disgust, love, hopefulness, or resolve. It all depends on what emotion you want at the time. These emotions are powerful connectors.

Once you have your messaging story (your big why for doing what you do) and the emotions you want them to feel, you have a compelling way for people to remember your organization. We are naturally wired for stories and when you combine your messaging and stories- you have something memorable!

When you use messaging, you can easily convey your values and help people remember them. With or without explicitly saying it, you can tell people what you believe and stand for. Being consistent with this messaging can help you find your ideal donors.
When your messaging and branding are consistent, you allow your donors to quickly identify you in a sea of advertising. You will stand out. It takes a person seeing an ad 27 times for the organization to be on their radar. That’s just on their radar! Having consistent messaging, helps you to stay on their radar and peaks interest.

Here is an unexpected side effect of messaging. Just going through the steps and asking yourself the questions, helps you gain clarity in your big why (a huge part of your messaging) and clarity in identifying your ideal donor. Clarity in your big why and your ideal donor are the single most important pieces to your marketing and fundraising. These two things will be the center of all you do to attract and communicate with donors.

How Do I Use Messaging?

Once you have your messaging, you will use your stories everywhere. Some ideas are:

  • On your website- Your About page is a great place for your Founder’s story.
  • In Social Media
  • In email
  • In Appeals

Once you have your big why messaging, you will work your way out to your how. How do you accomplish your big why? (Hint: Programs) What is your vision when put in perspective of your big why? Answering this question helps you with strategic planning.

The best explanation of messaging from the why out is found in Simon Sinek’s TED Talk.

Two important concepts to get out of the talk are:
People don’t buy (or donate to) what you do. They buy (or donate to) why you do it.
The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe. (The same is true for organizations and donors).

Need help getting started? Here is a worksheet, Figuring Out Your Big Why.


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