Articles | Message Development | How to Shape Powerful Messages: Connect to Convince

How to Shape Powerful Messages: Connect to Convince

What’s the relationship between an
organization’s messages and its strategy?

When we announced the winners of this year’s Nonprofit Tagline Awards (The Taggies), a bit of a debate unfolded about the connection between taglines and strategy.

Fundraiser and blogger Chuck English asserted that a tagline is nothing but a tool, and that approaching it otherwise diverts organizations from the critical work of strategy.

In response, Katya Andresen, COO at Network for Good, commented, “Taglines are a great test of your strategy. You can’t have a clear tagline if you don’t have a clear sense of 1) your mission; 2) what is special about your organization; and 3) what your audience cares about.”

I couldn’t agree more with Katya. And I was glad to see Chuck raise the issue. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting the Nonprofit Tagline Awards program, it’s that most nonprofits misunderstand or overlook the power and importance of taglines and other key messages, and the critical role they play in strategy.

In fact,’s survey of nonprofits showed that 7 in 10 nonprofits rated their tagline as poor or didn’t use one at all. The majority of nonprofits not using a tagline indicated that they had not thought about it or couldn’t come up with a good one.

Effective messages derive from a comprehensive, well-thought-out marketing plan with concrete and specific goals, and a clear understanding of who you need to engage to meet those goals. They don’t just come to you in the shower.

Only after you’ve achieved that clarity, get to know what your community wants, and can pinpoint the overlap between their wants and what your organization wants, can you hope to craft powerful messages.

Making the nonprofit message-marketing strategy connection presents a huge opportunity for advancing your organization. That’s why, after three years of award programs, and collecting and categorizing more than 4,800 nonprofit taglines, we’re pleased to be able to point nonprofit marketers to the Nonprofit Tagline Database, featuring more than 4,800 organizational, program, fundraising campaign and special event taglines. Users can scan taglines by organizational focus or tagline type, or drill down into specific sets via the search tool.

Organizations can use the Database to:

  • Get ideas on ways to integrate a specific word or phrase into their taglines
  • Be inspired and guided in shaping all message elements by the taglines of organizations like theirs
  • Brainstorm on how to strengthen overall program messaging by reviewing program taglines of similar organizations
  • Break through paralysis in naming (or re-naming) an organization by reviewing names of other organizations in the same field.

The Database will help you and your organization in understanding trends and the competitive environment as you shape your marketing plan. And, when you move to the next level, The 2011 Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Report provides everything an organization needs to jump start its tagline development process:

  • Why a Nonprofit’s Name Isn’t Enough
  • How a Strong Tagline Benefits Your Organization—Useful for developing support among colleagues and leadership
  • The 10 Have-Tos for Successful Taglines
  • Using Words that Work.

A tagline is more than just a tagline! Organizations that hone their messaging well are part of a growing trend of smart nonprofits whose taglines help build awareness of their value and put them firmly in audiences’ hearts, minds, schedules and wallets.

It’s that understanding that makes it possible to hit the sweet spot where what’s important to your organization overlaps with what’s important to your community. And that’s what an effective tagline conveys.

What’s the relationship between your organization’s messages and its strategy?
Please share here.

Nancy Schwartz in Message Development | 0 comments

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Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing. Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to nonprofit organizations and foundations nationwide. She is the publisher of the Getting Attention e-update and blog. For more nonprofit marketing guidance like this, subscribe to her e-update at

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