5 Steps to Consistent Communications (+ Instant Connection)

Consistent MessagesWhether you’re all in on year-end fundraising or working in some 2017 prep, I bet you have some pretty ambitious goals to meet. You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise.

Here’s a proven but frequently overlooked method to help you get there: consistent communications. Consistency enables your people and prospects to recognize your organization’s communications in a flash. Time and time again, I’ve seen consistency across channels, programs and services, and audiences help nonprofits like yours motivate the actions they need. Those are the same messages likely to be remembered and repeated. Here’s how to get there:

1) Consistency generates an immediate “aha”
For your organization, consistency means developing a relevant and memorable brand (with core organizational messages and a unique graphic identity) and linking positive, real associations across each message, campaign, and platform.

Once you get consistent, your supporters (donors, program participants, volunteers, and more) and prospects immediately know your organization is the source of various communications they digest. You make it easy for them to recognize you by providing the same “brand experience” across the board.

Now, here’s what consistency doesn’t mean: saying the same thing to everyone in every conversation and communication. For example, use your CRM or donor database to segment your lists in the way that’s most meaningful, then customize messages accordingly. That’s vital for success in this era of content overload and personalized marketing (like the way the ad for the boots you ogled on Zappos follows you around online).

2) The result of consistent communications?
Increased conversion (giving, registering, volunteering) AND  loyalty
Consider how you tackle your inbox or stack of mail. The first things to go are emails or letters from unknown senders. That’s why response plummets when it’s hard for people to recognize that an ask or update is from your organization. On the other hand, a message they instantly know is from your nonprofit has a much greater chance of being opened, read, and acted on.

Providing a consistent representation of your nonprofit’s brand also helps supporters and prospects understand the breadth and depth of your organization. That your organization delivers several programs in your cause area. That your organization serves your community in three ways, not just the one through which they got to know you. That understanding kick starts peoples’ emotional connection and pride (a.k.a. loyalty) and paves the way to providing the kind of compelling experience that leads to long-lasting relationships.

3) Caveat: Craft distinctive messages for EACH campaign 
I do want to emphasize the importance of campaign-specific messages. For example, your year-end appeal messages should be distinct from your capital campaign appeal messages. Your volunteer thank yous should differ significantly from the way you thank your board members. Your campaign for returned vets program registration should feature messages distinct from those for registration for your teen parents support group. But still—every message needs to align with your organization’s overall brand.

4) Donation Pages: A frequent disconnect

Global Giving Syrian ReliefOne of the most common and troublesome inconsistencies I see is a mismatch between a nonprofit’s online donation page and the campaign promo that motivated the donor to give on that page.

When I recently responded to an email from an international relief organization to support Syrian refugees, I was surprised to find a generic, one-size-fits-all refugee relief content on the donation page. The disconnect made me pause momentarily. Although I did follow through with my donation, you want to avoid halting donations or other actions even for a second. 

Compare that to Global Giving’s campaign-specific online donations page. This page’s content builds visitors’ understanding of the specific challenges for Syrian refugees in Jordan. It’s far more likely to engage donors and may motivate them to give more. Note that Global Giving incorporates consistent organizational branding via the header content—the campaign is immediately recognizable as a “Global Giving” program. These are the kind of distinctive campaign messages, clearly aligned with organizational brand, that move a donor smoothly through her giving process. 

5) Launch a Clear Style Guide to Get and Stay Consistent
Developing a comprehensive, easy-to-use editorial and visual identity style guide (with examples) is the best tool I know to ensure consistency.  First share the value of consistency to your colleague, board member, and volunteer messengers, using examples relevant to their own lives. Then ask for their help in keeping your messages consistent. Then use your style guide to train them and serve as an ongoing reference. 

How to Create a Nonprofit Style Guide: 7 Steps to Greater Consistency and Impact

There’s no question that creating consistent communications is hard work but the return on your investment will be a huge net positive. Put consistency into play now to fire up your year-end and year-round campaigns!

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Nancy Schwartz on December 14, 2016 in Branding and Messages | 1 comment
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