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 toddcohen49@gmail.com.

Advertisements

Show the value of planned giving

Planned gifts can make a big difference for charities by providing a long-term source of critical support.

So charities should invest the time and effort to tell the story of why those gifts matter, how they are created, and their impact on the people they serve, their communities and their donors.

Planned gifts often are deferred or involve complex transactions and assets such as businesses, real estate or securities. They often support endowments. And in addition to advancing causes they care deeply about by donating significant assets, donors often structure their planned gifts to meet both current and future personal and family needs.

While planned gifts can be complicated, it is essential to tell their story simply and show their value to donors and to advancing their causes.

So invest the time to create profiles of donors who make planned gifts. What were the donor’s charitable and personal goals? What life event may have created the opportunity to make the gift? What assets did the donor use? How did the donor structure the gift? What role, if any, did the donor’s professional advisers play? How did the charity work with the donor and adviser? What difference did the gift make for the charity, the people and community it serves, the donor, and the donor’s family?

Then share those stories on your website and in your fundraising materials.

Investing in a gift-planning program can generate significant gifts that can change the way a charity operates and the difference it makes in the lives of the people it serves, clients and donors alike.

So tell the stories of the planned gifts your charity receives so donors can see the value they will add to their communities and the causes they care about, and in their own lives.

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 toddcohen49@gmail.com.

Explain your nonprofit’s work and impact

A great way for your nonprofit to engage donors, volunteers and other partners is to make it easy for them to understand what you do, how you do it, and the difference you make for the people and places you serve.

Despite what your website or printed materials may say about your organization, or its legacy in the community, never assume that people know much about your work or truly understand exactly what you do, why you do it, and your impact.

So make it clear.

Explain the community need you address, and how it affects people. Describe the services you provide, how and why they work, and the lives they help change. Talk about the partners and supporters you count on. And show people how they can get involved.

Keep your story short, and use words anyone can understand. Avoid the technical terms, jargon and acronyms your peers favor but that can turn off people who simply want to find out about your nonprofit.

Make it easy for people to understand the problems in your community, and their causes, however complex, the value you add to the lives of the people you serve.

Making your story human makes it easier for people to understand and want to help.

You also should develop talking points that tell your story quickly. And train your board and staff to use those talking points whenever they have an opportunity to talk about your organization.

To help advance the work of your nonprofit, make your story sing, and always be telling it.

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 toddcohen49@gmail.com.

Make your human impact clear

The best way to show the difference your nonprofit makes is to show the human face of your work.

So create stories about the people you serve and work with, including your clients, donors, volunteers and other partners.

Who are your clients? What challenges do they face in life? What are the underlying causes of those problems? How do your programs make their lives better?

Who are you donors? What causes do they care about? Why do they support your organization? What difference does their support make, both to the people you serve and in their own lives?

Who are your volunteers and other partners? Why did they get involved with your nonprofit? What role do they play in your work? What effect does their involvement with you have on their own work?

Stories about the people you serve and work with are a great way of showing other people why your nonprofit matters, why they should get involved, and what difference their support will make in addressing human needs in your community and advancing their own values and causes.

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 toddcohen49@gmail.com.

Raise awareness of community needs

To truly engage donors as long-time partners and investors, nonprofits need to shine a spotlight on the issues they address.

That means explaining community problems in a way that is clear, concise and compelling.

What are the underlying causes of the problem? Who does it affect? What are its human, social and environmental costs?

It also is important to help people understand effective solutions to address the problem. What strategies and partnerships are working? What difference are they making?

In addition to raising awareness about the needs you address, you also should work hard to get to know your donors and prospective donors. What issues are near and deaer to their heart? How do they want to be remembered? What family issues do they face?

And help them see how getting involved with your organization will address critical community needs while also advancing the causes they care about.

Too many nonprofits treat fundraising as a business “transaction” with donors. They expect support simply because their cause is worthy. And they expect instant gratification once they ask for support.

Nonprofits that are smart about fundraising will make the long-term investment needed to raise awareness about community needs. They will take time to truly get to know their donors and prospective donors. And they will help donors understand their work and the difference they make.

Fundraising is the end result, not the starting point, of investment in more informed and engaged communication to build long-term relationships with donors by helping them understand community problems and get involved in fixing them.

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 toddcohen49@gmail.com.

Charities need to stop abusing language

Clear communication is essential for charities to succeed, yet they increasingly are using philanthropic jargon and doubletalk, and in the process putting their own survival at risk.

Charities are businesses. Their job is to improve lives. Their success is measured by the difference they make for the people and places they serve, and by their financial bottom line.

To best serve the people who receive their services, raise the money they need, run effective programs, operate efficiently, and find and keep smart employees, board members and volunteers, charities need to speak and write clearly.

They need to be able to tell their story so it is easy to understand the need they address, the people they serve, the way they work, their impact, and why people should care, get involved and support them.

Charities should speak plainly and make their words matter. They should embrace the fact that they are businesses with both social and financial bottom lines, and must survive in a fiercely competitive charitable marketplace.

But instead of using words that make their work easy to understand, and show people why they should get involved, charities abuse language, fogging their communications with jargon, technical words and acronyms.

And many charities, while wanting to avoid being seen as corporate, disengaged or bureaucratic, are quick to parrot the language of business, academia and government.

The job of charities is to make life better for the people and places they serve. They are businesses that provide direct services — to people and places in need, to donors, to volunteers, and to partner agencies.

To fix complex and interconnected social and global problems, charities need to say what they mean and do what they say.

And they need to stop pretending they operate in a refined atmosphere above the messy and often dysfunctional marketplace in which they must do business and compete.

To succeed, they must learn to communicate clearly with all their customers.

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 toddcohen49@gmail.com.