Focus your message on your actual impact

Nonprofits spend too much time talking about their imagined role when they should be working to explain their work and understand and connect with the people and places they serve.

Instead of showing the actual difference they make in their community, many charities simply tout what they would like to do, and gear their stories to what they think their own staff and board should hear.

Their websites and marketing materials inflate their community leadership and role, as if proclaiming your charity is a leader, innovator and risk-taker makes it one.

Their message also seems designed to reassure their own organizations about their aspirations and value.

And while they hype their initiatives as bold, they fail to explain how they work or why they matter.

Donors, volunteers, sponsors and partner agencies do not care what your nonprofit might want to do, or that it sees itself as an indispensable and courageous community asset and partner.

They do of course expect and want your goals to be ambitious in addressing your community’s urgent and diverse needs.

But what they really want to know — and what will help them decide whether to support you — is what you actually do with the resources you have.

What community need do you address? Who do you serve? What do you do to improve their lives, and how do you do it? How does your work make your community better?

Instead of throwing time and resources into self-promotion and self-affirmation, take the time and make the effort to make your cause and work clear.

Make it easy for anyone to see the social return they can expect from investing in helping you try to do better what you already do well.

Carrying out your mission depends on truly connecting with donors and other partners. So help them want to be part of what you do by spelling out exactly what that is.

By telling your story through the details of your work, you not only show donors and partners the need you serve and the difference you make. You also show them the range of opportunities they have to get involved.

And if they get it, you can begin to build a relationship.

So do not misuse your communications to simply boost and cheer for your organization.

Instead, create stories that explain your cause and impact, and can help you engage the supporters and partners you count on to best serve your community.

Want professional 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

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: