Strategic development consulting for the nonprofit community

Three Steps to Great Messaging

February 13th, 2017

Three steps to great messaging shared by Associate Jeanne Murray.

Your organization communicates purpose and inspires support through your messaging. While a good starting point is crafting a great mission statement, the day-in/day-out communication of your organization’s message doesn’t end with a declaration of mission. Continual messaging conveys the impact, energy, and needs of your organization – and, importantly, supports your development efforts.

How do you know good messaging from the kind that needs improvement? Good messaging communicates value, encourages consistency, and identifies clear action.
jeanne murray writes about messaging

Good messaging communicates value. Messaging that communicates value is less about what you do, and more about what gets done with donor support. Words and images that bring impact to life tell donors that your organization is a worthy investment of time, money, and attention. Do your communications identify a donor’s role in achieving the mission? For example, I’m on the board of a Durham nonprofit whose mission clearly states the role the community plays in achieving the mission:

Families Moving Forward offers a temporary home to families with children in the crisis of homelessness. Working together, we create a path to stability and self-sufficiency through personalized services and ongoing community support.

Many organizations rely heavily on the written word to communicate value, and consider visuals as support for a story. Be more intentional about telling your story by showing interaction, engagement, and impact through photos, graphics, video, and other visual imagery.

Good messaging encourages consistency. Can everyone involved with your organization tell a consistent story? Note that this isn’t the same as a one-size-fits-all story. Good messaging tells stories of your mission in ways that a target audience can best hear them. For one of our clients at UNC Chapel Hill, moss+ross led a workshop to develop audience segments and associated personas, and identify how the core mission of service and opportunity could play out differently depending who is listening: a longtime supporter, an out-of-state family, or a group with a particular scholarly interest. Target your messaging to the intended audiences, and help people make your stories their own.

Good messaging identifies action. Your great mission and message should compel donors to ask, “How can I help?” Good messaging places action into the target audience’s hands. The action that all organizations want and need to promote – “to give” – is of great importance, of course! But many other actions lead to engagement that leads to giving. We recently worked with a community outreach ministry in Raleigh to incorporate more concrete calls to action. Many of their communications were geared to learning about the organization, and, while valid, this purpose can be offered in combination with more tangible actions. For example, “learn and sign up for the e-newsletter,” or “learn and respond to a survey,” or “learn and volunteer.”  Evaluate your communications to determine whether the messages include clear calls to action.

Your ultimate goal is to enlist help in spreading your message – from your board, volunteers, staff, and donors. Consistent messaging about value and action will equip all involved to share the news.