Think Before You Speak: Messages Matter

Think Before You Speak Messages MatterWe just received this fund-raising piece from the adoption agency we worked through to adopt our daughter, Charlotte. Couldn’t believe it.

Obviously, we are very supportive of the agency and their work in bringing families together. However, its marketing messages are off base time and time again, which makes us question the strength of the operation.

This latest piece takes the cake though! When you hear the expression “icing on the cake,” it usually means something extra. Something not really necessary.

But these folks are using “icing on the cake” in a way most people won’t understand, in a way that’s completely different from the common meaning.  This crazy message sloppiness just doesn’t make sense to us, and frankly, at a time when money is tight and giving is limited, makes us question whether we’ll give at all.

Think before your speak and test your messages with folks outside your organization. If you don’t, you’re going to confuse, annoy and possibly alienate your network. That’s the last thing you want to do.

P.S. Don’t miss out on the in-depth articles, case studies and guides on branding, messages and more featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on February 4, 2009 in Branding and Messages, Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments

  • Sally Hartman

    This reminds me of an invitation I received last year from a nonprofit encouraging me to give a gift in lieu of attending a fund-raising event it wasn’t going to have.
    The invitation include a list of things I could be doing instead of coming to an event. At the top of the list was “call your mother.”
    My mother died when I was 19, and I would love the opportunity to give her a call. But, reading this directive made me feel sad and then made me mad at the organization. What if someone who had just lost their mother had received this?
    Copywriters need to envision real people when they write their messages and think of the impact their words may have.
    This message could very easily have been something more universal such as “call a long-time friend.”
    Needless to say, I did not send a donation to this organization. But, I did save its invitation as an example of what not to do.

  • Aaron Stiner

    Well Nancy, I think you are being generous just by commenting on the message – the graphics itself would be a huge turnoff to most savvy donors who have an expectation of high quality and cutting edge images in their marketing appeals. And don’t get me started on the way “the” is the only word not capitalized in the tagline – yikes! You are right, it is too bad that an organization doing good work can’t get their message across in a good way. It would make me have doubts too!

  • Nancy:
    I agree with Aaron; you’re being generous in your assessment. The total package of graphics, copy, message — all way off. Since you won’t say it, I will — it’s garbage.
    And it’s really too bad that good organizations like the one you used to adopt your child are satisfied with mediocrity. The lack of modern-day standards in that piece perpetuates the negative stigma that all nonprofits are low-quality.
    I recently wrote a post about being PERTINENT that emphasizes the attributes of relevance and importance in our messages. Your readers can find it at
    — David Kinard, PCM

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