The Back Story
A nonprofit’s tagline is hands down the briefest, easiest and most effective way to communicate its identity and impact.
But this high-impact, low-cost marketing tactic is often overlooked or under-emphasized by nonprofits. GettingAttention.org’s 2008 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.
The Nonprofit Tagline Awards program is designed to address this missed opportunity, and guide nonprofits to craft an effective tagline.
The 2009 award winners demonstrate how powerful taglines can work as a first step in branding or as a highly-effective tool to refresh a nonprofit’s messaging, emphasize its commitment to its work and/or revive tired positioning.
Winning taglines plus much more are featured in the 2011 Nonprofit Tagline Report and Online Tagline Database:
- The 10 Have-Tos for Successful Taglines
- The 7 Deadly Sins – Examples of what not to do.
- Searchable Access to more than 4,800 Nonprofit Tagline Examples to put to work for tagline brainstorming.
2009 Award Winners
Arts & Culture: Big Sky. Big Land. Big History. — Montana Historical Society
The Montana Historical Society takes its state’s most elemental and distinctive characteristics (Big Sky, Big Land) and deftly melds them with its mission in a way that generates excitement. The result is a tagline with punch and focus. And a big hit with voters.
Associations: Building community deep in the hearts of Texans —TexasNonprofits
TexasNonprofits’ tagline tweaks the title of an iconic American popular song from the 1940s and brilliantly connects it to the spirit, passion and mission of the state’s citizenry. A great example of how word play works in a tagline.
Civic Benefit: Holding Power Accountable —Common Cause
Common Cause’s tagline leaves no doubt about the organization’s mission, unique value and commitment. It’s definitive, with a powerful economy of words. An excellent example of the tagline clarifying the nonprofit’s focus, when the organization’s name alone doesn’t do so.
Education: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste® —UNCF -The United Negro College Fund
This 38-year-old tagline from UNCF still rings strong. It elegantly delivers its straight up, powerful message. When your tagline is the boiled-down essence of your argument for support, you’ve achieved tagline bliss. That’s why this one is a classic.
Environment & Animals: Because the earth needs a good lawyer —Earthjustice
Earthjustice capitalizes on what people do understand – that a lawyer protects rights – and uses that framework to dramatically position its role and impact in the environmental movement. And it does so with humor. If your tagline makes people smile or light up, without stepping on your message, then you’ve made an emotional connection…Bravo.
Grantmaking: If you want to be remembered, do something memorable. —The
It’s a rare tagline that manages to recruit people to its cause both unabashedly and effectively. That’s exactly what The Cleveland Foundation pulls off here. Clear, concise, and…memorable! A model for any organization promoting philanthropy.
Health & Sciences: Finding a cure now…so our daughters won’t have to. © —PA Breast Cancer Coalition
The PA Breast Cancer Coalition’s tagline is both emphatic and poignant. It strikes a deep emotional chord, and conveys the focus and impact of its work without being overly sentimental. “Finding a cure,” a highly used phrase for health organizations, is bolstered here by the appeal to solve a problem now so future generations won’t suffer from it.
Human Services: Filling pantries. Filling lives. —Houston Food Bank
With simple but effective use of word repetition, the Houston Food Bank clarifies its work and impact. It delivers on two distinct levels—the literal act of putting food on people’s shelves and the emotional payoff to donors and volunteers. An excellent example of a mission-driven tagline.
International, Foreign Affairs & National Security: Send a Net. Save a Life. —Nothing
Short, punchy and laser-sharp, the Nothing But Nets tagline connects the action with the outcome. It’s inspirational in the simplicity of its message and its reason for existing. The kind of tagline nonprofits should model.
Jobs & Workforce Development: Nothing Stops A Bullet Like A Job —Homeboy Industries
Homeboy Industries’ tagline is a mini-masterpiece, telling a memorable story in just six words. It stops you in your tracks, makes you want to learn more and sticks with you afterwards. That’s the kind of potent nonprofit messaging every organization desires.
Media: Telling stories that make a difference —Barefoot Workshops
If your organization’s name is vague, it’s critical that your tagline be distinct. Barefoot Workshops’ tagline sums up the transformative power of stories to create change in people and their communities, so clarifying the organization’s focus. Saved by the tagline!
Religion & Spiritual Development: Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. —The people of The United Methodist Church
The work of religious organizations often operates on several planes at once — a challenge for any organization and its messaging. Here, The people of The United Methodist Church delivers a tagline trinity that supports its applied faith mission and is warm, enthusiastic and embracing.
Other: A head for business. A heart for the world. —SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise)
If an organization’s identity contains within it a distinct contrast between its key characteristics, that’s often good tagline material. Here, SIFE surprises with its crystal-clear tagline that conveys not only what’s unique about it but also capitalizes on the contrast between profit and compassion.