The 9 Questions to Ask: Is Stronger Messaging the Answer to Your Org’s Problem?

I’m pleased to welcome back Rebecca Leet, author of Message Matters, who helps nonprofits and foundations sharpen their goals and connectwith the people who can achieve them.  Rebecca covered the importance of knowing your base in her last post.

“I had lunch recently with a long-time client, the head of a national environmental organization.  Even before we ordered, she shared her worry that a major program just wasn’t living up to expectations.

She wondered if developing a message specifically for that program might help.  She glanced over her shoulder a little sheepishly and asked how do I know if we need a message?

She shouldn’t have looked around nervously because she asked a good question. And its a question more orgs should ask before they jump into the message development pond. Instead, they start by saying I think we need a message rather than asking will a strong message help?

Here are nine questions to ask to gauge whether messaging will help you reach your goal:

  1. Am I satisfied with how well people listen when we talk about the program?
  2. Does the conversation reflect an understanding of the program’s focus and impact?
  3. Do our team members discuss the program in basically the same way?
  4. Are we talking to the right people, the specific groups that will help us achieve our goal?
  5. Do we connect quickly with our audiences – do they engage or are they staring at us blankly or with confusion?
  6. When we talk about our program, do we use language our next-door neighbor will understand or are we using jargon?
  7. Do we understand what desires motivate our target audiences and connect with those wants in our messages?
  8. Will we use a message if we develop one?  (Yes, that’s a legitimate question!)
  9. Are we willing to involve colleague departments (e.g. development, research, chapter relations) in creating the messaging because we need their insights and want them using the messaging, too?

Although much of my professional life is focused on developing messages, I’m the first to say that a powerful message is not the answer to every floundering program or reluctant donor.  It’s worth asking yourself, before you start, whether a strategic message is really what you need.”

P.S. Messages that connect are a priority for all organizations and the prerequisite for motivating your base to act. Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Guest Blogger on April 8, 2010 in Branding and Messages | 1 comment
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  • AJ

    This is an extremely relevant post, especially in a recession, when a lot of potential donors really need a message they respond to to incite them to donate financially. I agree it’s not always the solution to an organizations problems, but particularly when structuring a fundraising drive or event, I think it’s important to give some serious thought to what the message and, more specifically, the tagline for said event will be.
    I write a non-profit resource blog at: donationpay.org/blog
    Come check it out and keep up the good work!

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