case study

Nonprofit Audience Personas

Thanks to See3 for sharing this useful case study, originally published on the See3 blog.

Learn more: Create personas to bridge the gap with your target audiences

Many nonprofits fall into the trap of believing that their audience is the general public, when the truth is that your supporters are much more nuanced than that.  By putting together a comprehensive profile of your audience, your nonprofit is better able to create personalized content that speaks to your audience and drives them to action.


Guest Blogger in Audience Research | 0 comments
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I’ve always admired the work, style and smarts of Kaboom, which helps communities nationwide to build and restore playgrounds. So I was thrilled to interview a few Kaboom staffers — including Jim Hunn, Vice President, Mass Action — in my discovery process for a client’s web strategy.

Engagement is the success factor for every program, including the project I’m working on, and a primary topic of my work.  Jim and colleagues outlined several key motivators for community participation in the work they do, ones they’ve identified through getting to know what’s important to these communities. Knowing that, and what’s top of mind for the network you need to engage is the prerequisite to relevance, which drives engagement.

Nancy Schwartz in Advocacy | 0 comments
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Over the last years, American Rivers has conducted in-depth research with a variety of Chesapeake Bay leaders on their understanding of polluted stormwater runoff and potential solutions, and their response to a variety of messages.  They do great work.

So I was thrilled to find this clear, well-tested message development worksheet American Rivers developed for organizations advocating for better stormwater solutions. This approach is applicable to your message development around any issue, in any region.

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages | 0 comments
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yAddendum, 7/22/10: Here’s the YWCA’s response to the Y’s name change.

In case you haven’t heard, the YMCA is now the Y.  And believe it or not, the story is covered in the first section of today’s New York Times. Nonprofit marketing news doesn’t usually make the grade!

According to Kate Coleman, the Y’s chief marketing officer, this name change is motivated by the Y’s desire to use a name more closely matched with its mission and emphasizes the impact its programs have on youth, healthy living and communities.  This is definitely a critical focus to reflect in the Y’s branding but I’m not convinced that a single letter can do all that!

“It’s a way of being warmer, more genuine, more welcoming, when you call yourself what everyone else calls you,”  is the second reason for the change  Coleman cites. I don’t agree with that one either.

It is indeed important to know what your organization’s base thinks and what’s important to them. That’s the only way to identify the intersection of your organization’s needs and those of your base – the nexus of your brand. But that doesn’t mean your brand should be what your base is using as your name.

Already, the Y is set up to confuse audiences by asking that while affiliates should be referred to overall by the new name, a specific branch should be referred to the “South Mountain YMCA.” That’s a mess in the making.

I certainly understand the Y’s motivation to have its name more clearly reflect its current mission. That’s good marketing. And the same valid reasoning that moved the United Negro College Fund to change its name to UNCF – because it was serving more than students of a single race.

And the Y does a fantastic job of using the new brand to highlight what’s really important – its current programmatic focus.  No one cares that your branding is different but announcing your new focus is a great way to (implicitly) introduce your new brand. Take a look at this webcast of the Y’s press conference on the change.

But I envision the Y will face some real challenges with this name change, including:

  • What about the YWCA?
  • And the YMHA/YWHA (the Jewish Y)? New York City’s affiliate is already known as the 92nd Street Y.
  • The name “Y” makes me ask “why not?”

What are your thoughts on this name change? Does it work? Should  a nonprofit’s name be whatever it’s called by its base? Please share your comments below. Thanks!

P.S.  Enter today – The 2010 Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards (a.k.a. The Taggies) close on July 28! Please enter today. And this year, for the first time, you can submit your organization’s program, fundraising campaign and/or and special event taglines, in addition to your organizational tagline.

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages | 12 comments
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nonprofit taglineQ: We’re trying to finalize our nonprofit tagline, but need your help.

Your nonprofit tagline report has been incredibly helpful.  But we’ve been trying to finalize  a new tagline here at Seattle Central Community College for over a year now!

Here are a few that we’ve come up with. I’d appreciate your thoughts:

  • Seattle Central fits youBased in large part on results from student/staff/faculty focus groups we conducted and is taken directly from a student quote. I’m hesitant to use this because one of your the tagline “don’ts” is repeating part of the organization’s name.

— Judy Kitzman, Communications Specialist

A. You’re right to pick up on that don’t, Judy, as repeating your organization’s name in your tagline IS a waste of messaging real estate, especially when the other words don’t differentiate your organization (and you are using just four words).

One thing in particular we would like to do is set Seattle Central apart geographically from other colleges –  we’re the only downtown community college campus and students love our urban location and diverse campus.

With that in mind, here are two options we’ve developed. I’m very interested in your feedback here:

  • The college on Capitol Hill.
  • Your college. Your future.

A: Judy, these are going in the right direction. But I don’t think either one does it: Location alone isn’t enough to motivate someone to matriculate, although diversity and/or a successful future may be. But put those concepts together and you’re far likelier to motivate prospective student interest:

Seattle Central Community College
Your future starts on Capitol Hill

This is just a quick draft Judy, that needs polishing, but take it from here!

If you have suggestions for Judy, please post them in Comments below.

Nancy Schwartz in Taglines | 4 comments
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nonprofit communications

Q: Is it necessary (or valuable) to include a caveat at the end of emails coming from our organization?

Dear Nancy,

I enjoy reading the Getting Attention e-update and am glad to have an opportunity to improve our communications practice.

Here’s the issue: I notice some of my colleagues here add this multi-line caveat at the end of their emails:

This email, and any attachment, is confidential. If you have received this message in error, please return to sender and delete from your machine. The views expressed in this message are not necessarily those of the Minnesota Council of Churches, members or affiliates.

What’s your take on where this sort of information belongs, if it belongs at all?


Emily (Emily Jarrett Hughes, Assistant Director of Organizational Development, Minnesota Council of Churches)

A: Less is more, particularly in online nonprofit communications, Emily.  The more “extra” content in an email, the more distraction from the key points conveyed.

However, it’s not a black-and-white situation, Emily.  If your legal advisors require use of a caveat, it should be used consistently – by all staff members in every email.

I’m no lawyer but what I do know is that extra verbiage like that in use by some of your colleagues just gets in the way of effective email communication. There are three different points made here:

  • The email is confidential. But what does that even mean?
  • The email should be returned if sent to the wrong recipient. Really? I doubt you receive emails returned due to the directive in the caveat.
  • The views expressed in the email are those of the individual, not the Council, members or affiliates.

If there is a good reason to integrate such a caveat into emails, do it cross-organization, in every email and make it as short as possible. In the Council’s case, Emily, I bet that this third element (on views) is the point of concern. If so, work with your legal team to cut the other verbiage and get to the point.

P.S. Pithy messages that get to the point 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!

Nancy Schwartz in Email and E-Newsletters | 0 comments
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nonprofit tagline reportQ: Can we use both a tagline and slogan for our nonprofit?

Our organization uses a three-word slogan (Access. Acquire. Empower.) and a tagline (Using Technology to Narrow Societal Gaps). And I have two questions for you.

1. Is it overkill to use a slogan and a tagline? Is that a nonprofit marketing don’t?

  • The slogan is important for our mission statement, which is based on those three words.
  • The tagline gives a better idea of what we do.

2. What’s the solution?

  • We’ve been toying with the idea of getting rid of one or the other, or making a “mish-mash” of the two:  Access to technology. Acquire knowledge/skills. Empower people.
  • We know this isn’t very powerful.

–Ephraim Geffen, Machshava Tova, Israel


A: Dear Ephraim, using two taglines is confusing. Stop!

Your instinct that something is off with your nonprofit messaging approach is correct.


There’s really no difference between a slogan and a tagline.  So your nonprofit is currently using two taglines, which is incredibly confusing to your target audience. It’s tops the list of nonprofit marketing don’ts.

The last thing any nonprofit communicator wants to do is to confuse his audience. Because confusion makes people want to flee; the absolute opposite of engagement.

Instead, take the time to develop a single, clear tagline — eight words or less–they conveys the essence of your organization’s value. I don’t know the meaning of your organizational name, but if the name doesn’t say what you do, the tagline should include some description.

It is NOT important that your tagline mirrors the words in your mission statement (which is internally oriented).  What you can do to convey those ideas is to integrate the language and concepts into your positioning statement — the one to three sentences you use to convey your organization’s focus, impact and unique value to the communities you serve.

But start with your tagline. You’ll find all the guidance you need to shape a powerful one in the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Report (download link below).

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!

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Case Studies, Taglines | 0 comments
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