How to Make the Most of Your Nonprofit Team’s Bios — Small Changes, Big Impact

How to Get Your Nonprofit Team's Bios Right -- Small Changes, Big ImpactWhen it comes to building trust with prospective donors and volunteers, service users or program participants, board members and other key audiences, the smallest details can make a huge impact. And pithy, punchy staff bios–with photos–can have prospects intrigued you before they even dig into the details of what your nonprofit has to offer.

Here are some tested tips for crafting bios that will help audiences connect with your organization:
1. Make the bios should be brief (no more than two paragraphs) but punchy

  • Skip non-essential details. Avoid listing your hometown and all of your degrees.
  • Include items of professional interest. Do make note of any professional designations, associations and awards. These show you have deep connections in the field.
  • If you have written any articles or books, make sure you mention them. This becomes a subtle third-party endorsement.
  • Add a personal endnote as a finale. This is the kind of info that readers can relate to on an emotional level.
  • Longer versions of senior management and other key player bios should be offered as PDF downloads and as  separate, high-profile pages like this warm intro to NARAL president Nancy Keenan.

2. Don’t forget bios of program, communications, fundraising and other directors — these are the folks audiences will be dealing with every day

  • When I’m probing an org I’m thinking of giving to the first time, one where I may volunteer, or a prospective client, I want to know who’s on the ground, not just who’s running the show.
  • These are the folks that the media will want to source as experts in the field.
    • Remember to link to bios via your Newsroom and Experts listings, as well as in your About Us/Leadership content.
  • Plus, the perspectives and expertise of your organizations directors and managers add up to a strong take on your focus and values.
    • Sometimes showing it is just (or more) important than saying it.
  • Remember, different audiences will want to make connections at different levels. A prospective board member may limit his digging into senior management; but a prospective new organizational partner or hire is going to want to learn more about his possible colleagues-to-be.
  • Beware though — this isn’t the mainstream approach.
    • AmnestyUSA, NARAL and the Appalachian Mountain Club tell me nothing about who’s doing the work on the ground. As a matter of fact, each of these stellar orgs provides only one bio, that of the CEO/president.
    • The ACLU shows its strength by featuring compelling bios of its senior and mid-level leadership.
  • If your organization is huge, and it’s not feasible to feature all directors, cycle their bios on your Web site.

3. The photo makes the initial connection — make sure it’s a good one

  • Use a pro to shoot your entire management team; group pricing tends to be more reasonable and no bio should run without a photo.
  • Use a great headshot that is in color and at least 3×4 inches. Some prospects will just look at your photo and draw a conclusion; the picture needs to be so good it can stand alone.
  • Make eye contact, and dress neatly and professionally. As my mom used to say, “appearances matter.”

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Nancy Schwartz on October 23, 2007 in Nonprofit Communications, People, Strategy | 1 comment
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