Monday, August 22, 2011

Watch What Message Your Nonprofit Sends By Being Clear Everywhere It Connects At All With the Public

3. Ouch.  I know what they mean, in the photo here, by their sign, posted on this theater's building.  It's probably this nonprofit organization's attempt at humor, but the message could leave potential supporters (and even attendees) a little unsure of their meaning.  I mean, the message in the photo, here, of this organization's boastful "(Such and such) Theater Is 10 Years Old And We're Still Here!" may be considered cute or funny but it can also come off as surprising or even ironic; and it's the organization, itself, that created this sign (not some local competitor or detractor).  Ouch.  No nonprofit can risk its week to week cash flow and fundraising to such unclear and frankly somewhat unflattering messages stated to the general public.  Imagine how much it cost for this nonprofit theater to come up with a phrase to put on a banner, to have the banner made up, to have someone hang the banner on the business, and that is their message to the community?!  Let's take their choice as an example for the rest of us.  Instead, be clear.  Be positive.  Give potential supporters clear reasons why they would and should support your  nonprofit.  Always watch your organization's messaging and always affirm your organization's viability, potential, its track record, and its goals by asserting your organization's successes and achievements.  Do not equivocate, understate, (or over state) them.

2. On Twitter this morning I discovered a few new nonprofits that "followed" us, there, over the weekend.  If you aren't familiar with Twitter, for each entity that has a Twitter profile, you can state, on your Twitter page, a "blurb" about yourself (or the nonprofit, company, or agency, etc.).  Many nonprofits on Twitter do an excellent job of clearly explaining what their organization does, its mission statement, and even sometimes they can squeeze recent achievements and current goals in, too, into the blurb.  Twitter is just one more social media outlet but anywhere where your nonprofit interacts with the general public is an opportunity (and one not to be wasted).  One of the organizations that had chosen to "follow" The Grant Plant, LLC (the authors of this blog) on Twitter simply had, for the description of their organization, on Twitter, 'A nonprofit to help families out in our community' (I'm paraphrasing to avoid embarrassing anyone).  As someone totally unfamiliar with their nonprofit and as someone being introduced to their organization for the first time, I was left asking, "that does what, for whom, why, and where?".  Again, always take the opportunity to assert a clear, whole, detailed, but succinct and to the point message about your nonprofit, wherever its mentioned, for the community at large to quickly and clearly understand what your organization does, for whom (or what), and why.  Current supporters and potential new supporters are everywhere, including online, and on Twitter.

1. We've all seen the heart-wrenching commercials on TV and received the tear-jerker solicitations in the postal mail from nonprofits that will save the children, rescue the abused and mistreated animals, or protect the falling rain forest amid tractors tearing whole swaths of rain forest down by acres.  Please don't misunderstand me.  Each of these issues are serious concerns to me; and they are each real and very distressing problems that our communities and world face daily.  The organizations that disseminate these solicitations are not unimportant, and their work is not necessarily unsuccessful or in anyway lesser than any other nonprofit working for any other cause.  Often these organizations are successful at what they do and actually, are even heroes.  What concerns me about these kinds of solicitations for support is that the organization is placing grabbing our attention mostly by jerking our heart strings, rather than approaching us as intelligent, caring, but concerned members of the community, and world at large.  I'd rather not be manipulated, emotionally, into supporting a nonprofit.  First of all, it says nothing of the organization itself (again - what are the specific individual organization's mission, why its work is needed today, what are its organizational successes (recent and distant ones, too), what are its current goals, what accomplished and acclaimed people are a part of its board, volunteers, and staff?  These are the facts that encourage donors to: see that the organization knows what its doing (and is well respected in its cause and professional field), know that it isn't going away tomorrow - it has true potential for great successes today and tomorrow, that the nonprofit sees me (the donor or potential new donor) as a partner in its successes (by virtue of my supporting it) and treats me as such by giving me information (actual success rates, evaluation data of recent programs, and annual reports detailing the organization's operations, budget, spending, and overall management) that I can base smart decisions (like whether I should give to this nonprofit or to another doing similar (or the same exact) work on the same cause or issue), and more along these lines (transparency, accountability, holding one's organization to the highest professional and ethical standards, etc.).  When a nonprofit asks me to support it by only showing heart-wrenching images, it hasn't explained why I should support that specific nonprofit.  Rather - that kind of fundraising campaign simply leaves many of us emotionally taxed (who, especially in this difficult world, economy, and news cycles are already very worn down, emotionally, on average).  That doesn't make for an affirmative message for a nonprofit to proactively raise partners in a nonprofit's successes and achievements.  Instead, it leaves us wanting to turn the TV channel, recycle the unopened mail, or turn away in another fashion.  Instead, leave potential donors with a sincere desire to and confidence in supporting your unique nonprofit.

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