Quick tips to improve your nonprofit’s message.

Aug 4, 2022

Let’s face the facts. It doesn’t matter if your emails are technically sound and your print pieces and website are well designed and engaging if your nonprofit’s message doesn’t resonate with donors.

When’s the last time you sat down and thought about how your nonprofit talks about its mission, work, and the people who make it all possible? Why did you frame your message the way you did? And do you think it’s still effective?

You may think you have all the tools you need in place. But it might be time to revisit your strategic messaging if you don’t like your answers to those questions!

Try using these tips to reshape your nonprofit’s outreach.

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Make it all about the donor.

Many nonprofits struggle to get their message heard. But they insist on communicating the way they have been for years. And they still wonder why they’re still not seeing the results they used to.

The fundraising landscape is rapidly changing. Adaptability is key, now more than ever. So, if your communication strategies haven’t been evolving with the times, you will have a hard time standing out!

Traditionally, fundraising appeals tell stories focused on the people an organization supports. And many organizations still focus on the nonprofit’s current activities and the difference it makes in the lives of the people they support.

These points are important. But they shouldn’t be the focus of your appeals and related outreach. And that’s because donor-centric messages are proven more effective in modern fundraising.

Being donor centric starts with thinking about how donors see themselves in relation to your organization and its work.

So, remember, it’s not about what your organization is accomplishing. It’s about what the donor makes possible!

Don’t just talk about how your organization is working to preserve historic buildings. Focus on explaining how the donor’s support keeps culture alive in the community!

READ MORE: How you can tell a more donor-centric story.

Have you evolved your mission and message to align with your current goals and activities?

Focus on your foundation.

Getting to the core of your mission and discovering what your audience will care about is essential if you want to improve your nonprofit’s message.

Many organizations evolve their missions over time. But too many don’t formalize that transformation.

If the scope of your nonprofit’s work has shifted and evolved, your mission statement should be in tune with your current goals!

Think of this as the “big idea” behind the messaging in all your appeals and other communications. It should be complete, accurate, and insightful.

We use a simple exercise when working with nonprofits on refining their mission: State your nonprofit’s mission without using any of the words in your mission statement.

This exercise forces fundraisers to break things down and explain what the organization is trying to accomplish and how it will happen in simpler terms.

Breaking your nonprofit’s mission to the core will make your purpose clearer and more digestible for your audience and provides your organization with a stronger foundation for building future messages!

READ MORE: Six signs you should hire a fundraising agency.

Writing at a sixth grade reading level makes it easy for your audience to digest your message.

Don’t dwell on details.

No matter what your work involves, what your goal is, or what the stories you tell are, it’s important to keep things simple.

It’s important to keep things simple, no matter what.

See what we did there?

You can’t throw too much information or present it in a convoluted way if you want your audience to digest and remember your nonprofit’s message.

So, avoid using big words that can trip up your audience, like convoluted.

Write in short, simple sentences. It makes it easier for your audience to get the point. Appeals and other communications perform best when written at a sixth grade reading level.

And keeping it simple also makes the point of each message clear.

Appeals have one goal, secure a donation. Any other information about your ongoing projects or upcoming events should be left out. Similarly, donor surveys, newsletters, and thank you notes should stay focused and avoid monetary asks.

READ MORE: Does your nonprofit make it easy to give?

FREE eBOOK: Donor Retention - Do you deserve long term support?

Speak to Sam, Steve, and Sally separately.

No two donors are the same. And a message that resonates well with one segment of your donor base may not be as impactful for others. Knowing your audience and ensuring your nonprofit’s message feels relevant for everyone is key.

Effective personalization goes much further than including a recipient’s name in an email subject or on an outer envelope.

So, use your data to create variable and versioned content that increases the relevancy of your message with specific groups.

For example, organizations with a membership base can reach out with different messages for members and non-members. An independent school reaching out to alumni can include a picture of each recipient’s graduating class. An animal shelter can send different messages to donors who are cat or dog owners.

Each of these examples tells donors you’re speaking with them directly. You can make your nonprofit’s message more memorable by using your data to bring it closer to home for each recipient.

READ MORE: Easy ways to segment your nonprofit’s audience.

Your work is never done! Prepare to revisit and assess your strategic message on a regular basis.

Attempt, analyze, adapt.

Let’s say you take all the advice above to improve your nonprofit’s message. However, you fail to keep detailed records about conversion rates, average gift size, and other important fundraising metrics for each touch point.

You just severely limited your fundraising potential. Oops!

You will need strong data to improve your nonprofit’s message with an analytical approach. So, keep track of how well each communication achieves the desired results when you implement the strategies we shared here.

Making changes without analytical evidence guiding your decisions is like driving to a new destination without a GPS. You’re probably not going to get the results you’re looking for. And if you do, you will have no idea how you got there and won’t be able to improve for the next time!

For example, your data might be telling you to change up the messages you share with at-risk donors if your retention rate is below the 17 percent average for nonprofits. 

Improving your nonprofit’s message is an ongoing process. So, prepare to revisit and assess your approach regularly.

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