The Power of Clear Nonprofit Messaging
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
When organizations clarify their internal messaging, amazing things happen. It feels like magic as all the pieces start to fall into place: your audience grows, your revenue increases, the right team members find their way to you, your impact expands.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: It’s not magic. It’s clarity. That’s the power of clarity.
When you’re crystal clear on what you do, how you do it, who you want surrounding you, and the impact you want to make on the world, it makes it easier for your people to find you. This is the power of clear communication.
It’s like ordering a pizza. If you say, “Could I have some meat and a vegetable,” you might get something you love, like sausage and green pepper. Or you might get something weird, like ham and banana peppers. (No offense to anyone who loves that pizza. Actually I take it back, offense. That’s a weird pizza.)
If you know exactly what you want and order pepperoni with black olive, you’re more likely to get exactly what you like.
There are a lot of ways to achieve this clarity. At Moxie, we get there through writing key messaging.
We’ll start with a strategy call in which we ask a million questions that get to the marrow of what matters most. With these answers in hand, we write key messaging: things like a mission statement, vision statement, core values, about paragraph, and tagline. If we’re working with a nonprofit, we might also identify target audiences and write a value proposition, guiding principles, and a call to action.
Many of these elements don’t ever see the light of day. That is, no one but the internal team sees them. Sometimes people take that to mean they’re not valuable. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Power in the Process
The process of answering those clarifying questions, sitting down together to obsess over a vision statement, and feeling really clear on the end result means that everyone on the team has input and is on the same page. It means the shared vision of the team is crystallized and consolidated into something tangible.
Plus, things come up when you and your team sit down to talk about the big picture. We’re often so far in the weeds that things like a 5-year vision seem unimportant. Then when we sit down and answer the question, “Where do you want to be in 5 years,” it can be revealing. Before we get to the final answer, we may need to have some meaningful conversations about what will serve the world, our community, and our team most. It opens up space for hyper-intentionality.
Honoring Team Dynamics
When there’s more than one person on a team, clarity becomes even more essential. You may have an irrefutable idea of where your organization is going, but the person next to you might have a slightly different one. Each of your understanding impacts the meaning of your communication, contributing to slight inconsistencies for your audience.
It may seem insignificant, but that adds up.
When you add in a crew of board members, the value of clarity becomes exponential. Each board member talks to their friends, family, and network about their role in your organization. When the mission, vision, and values of the org are overt, each board member is communicating the same message, contributing to a united impression. If meaning is left up to each individual, there’s a possibility for muddiness as one board member shares a slightly different mission than the next.
There’s another team dynamic nonprofits have to confront: turnover. Nonprofits tend to have quite a bit of turnover in staff. With clarity in direction and messaging, the future of your organization is laid out on paper for all to see rather than carried in the heads of people as they come and go. It also makes onboarding a breeze: someone new can see in moments what an org does, their goals, who they serve, and where they want to be in 5 years.
Doing all the strategic work at once makes your job so much easier down the road. Let’s take audience profiles for example.
When we clearly identify the various facets of your audience, writing to each of them becomes a breeze. When crafting an annual appeal for your donors, you can refer to the audience profile for that group of people and write directly to them. When sending out a request for volunteers, you can tap into the dynamic of that audience subset and appeal right to them. When asking the folx you serve for feedback on programs and services, you can refer to their audience profile and easily write in a way that resonates with them.
Since you’ve already done the work of identifying who each group is, you’re able to skip ahead to writing and feel confident it will land.
Many organizations will hang up their key messaging on the wall of the office (back in the days when we went into offices with walls), providing an easy reminder of what they stand for. This is especially relevant with things like core values and a vision statement, the things that are least likely to be shared with your audience.
If you’re ever struggling to make a decision, look to your core values: Will acting in one way clearly align with your values? Will acting in another way clearly deviate from them? Or look to your vision statement: Which decision will point you towards that long-term vision for the world and your organization?
Another argument I’ll occasionally hear is this one: “I know what my audiences, values, and vision are. I don’t need to write them down.”
I get that sentiment...and I’m going to challenge it. In addition to the clarity between team members, writing out your key messaging has another benefit: it’s out of your head and on paper.
Having an idea of something in your brain and writing it out on paper are two very different things. I may have an idea of who I want to invite to a dinner party, but until I make a list and actually count, I don’t know how many places to set at the table. (Can you tell I miss being around other humans? And also that I’m hungry?)
For nonprofits with a tight budget and a small staff, efficiency is paramount, and nothing is more efficient than clarity.
If your organization could use some clear, strategic messaging, reach out to us. We offer one-on-one packages as well as workshops and group courses to meet nonprofits at a variety of price points.