This is Part 1 in a mini-series that asks – how do people determine which organizations deserve their donations? While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or as a sign in my local library reminded me – you shouldn’t judge a book by its movie), should you judge a nonprofit by its direct mail? Board? Staff? Physical Location? Articles in the newspaper? Facebook page? Gala? What about judging a nonprofit by its messaging?
Problem: There are so many ways in which a nonprofit can create awareness. It takes a lot of work to control the communication sent through the variety of channels available today. Creating consistent messaging is essential. Look at any strong organization – one that presents itself as a national brand with branches (e.g. YMCA or the United Way) – and you can uncover some important lessons.
The look, feel and essence of messaging should be the same from the CEO to the mailroom staff (or volunteer sorter). It is not enough to show them the mission statement and assume everyone buys into the ideas and knows how to rephrase it in their own words. One rogue committee member can upset a donor as easily as anyone else.
Solution: Practice talking about the mission, vision and goals of the nonprofit with the board, staff and volunteers. This can be a great exercise at a retreat or group training session. It is non-controversial and sends the message that you are thinking about each participant as an advocate of the organization who should be aware that what they say and how they say it is critical to success.