Gear your communications to your audience, not your peers

To meet their goals, charities must meet the needs of their constituents.

Yet instead of gearing their communications to the audiences they need to reach, far too many nonprofits and foundations are locked in the inbred and insulated vocabulary of their own organization and field of interest, and of the world of philanthropy.

You can and should use your nonprofit’s story as a sales and marketing tool to engage and better serve customers, whether clients, donors, funders, sponsors, grantees or other partners.

But the charitable marketplace has been seduced by — and seems to believe it must mimic — the technical, vague and often impenetrable language of academia, business and government.

What’s more, the communications content that nonprofits and foundations create — for their websites, fundraising and marketing materials, grant guidelines, newsletters, annual reports and news releases — often reflects their own in-house perspective, rather than the points-of-view of the multiple audiences that content should be targeting.

It often seems to be written to impress board and staff leaders, and professional peers, rather than to engage clients, donors and other partners.

If you truly want to communicate, use common sense, and keep it simple, real and clear.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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