Taglines are the quickest and most efficient way in your marketing strategy to tell people about your nonprofit organization’s mission. In one short phrase, you can tell your audience who you are and why they should care.
Think about Nike’s “Just Do It” or Little Caesar’s “Hot n Ready” – these taglines give the brands more energy and character. A great tagline can work the same magic for your nonprofit.
Even though they are an incredibly useful tool, taglines are overlooked in the nonprofit world. In fact, 71% of nonprofit marketing professionals consider their organization’s tagline as the least effective element in their messaging.
To stand out from the rest, learn about taglines and how to write one for your mission-driven organization. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is a nonprofit tagline?
- Do nonprofits have taglines?
- What makes a good tagline?
- Top Nonprofit Taglines
Read on and you’ll be ready to create a clear, concise, and catchy tagline for your nonprofit in no time.
What is a nonprofit tagline?
A tagline is a short, memorable phrase that succinctly captures a brand’s message. Once it becomes well known, a tagline also acts as a way to easily identify the brand it represents. Specifically for a nonprofit organization, a tagline should communicate its mission and purpose.
5 Types of Taglines
There are five types of taglines that are commonly seen in the nonprofit marketing sphere:
- Imperative: Imperative taglines command the audience to do something. They usually begin with a verb and involve an action relevant to the brand’s message. Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most iconic brands, uses an imperative tagline with “Open Happiness.” Subtly assertive, this type of tagline can give your brand an edgy quality. However, they’re usually a little vaguer, so it can be difficult to nail down the right phrasing.
- Descriptive: This is the most straightforward type of tagline. Descriptive taglines concisely describe the brand’s promise or function. Think about Walmart, a grocery store best known for low prices. Its tagline is “Save Money. Live Better.” This phrase clearly yet simply explains Walmart’s primary function.
- Provocative: Despite what the term suggests, provocative taglines don’t have to be shocking, per se. Rather, these taglines ask a question or offer a statement that provokes thought. Dove’s tagline “You are more beautiful than you think” is a prime example of a provocative tagline.
- Superlative: Named for the highest degree of comparison, superlative taglines position a brand as the best in its industry. Budweiser is known as“The King of Beers,” BMW is known as “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” and Gillette is known as “The Best A Man Can Get.” Each of these brands is establishing itself as the superior product within its product category.
- Interrogative: Interrogative taglines ask the audience a question. One of the most famous taglines ever is an interrogative tagline— The California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk?”
Also, taglines are not the same as slogans. A tagline is one phrase for the overarching idea of an organization. Slogans, on the other hand, accompany specific marketing campaigns. An organization could have multiple slogans for many different campaigns, but it will only ever have one tagline at a time.
To find more information on how to come up with the most powerful fundraising slogans, check out this comprehensive guide on nonprofit digital campaigns.
Now you know what a tagline is, and what it isn’t, as well as what are the five different types of taglines. Next, we’ll discuss why taglines are important for your organization and why you should care about them.
Do nonprofits have taglines?
The short answer to the question of if nonprofits have taglines is yes, they do have taglines. However, seven out of 10 nonprofits rated their tagline as poor or didn’t have one at all. That means they’re not nearly as abundant as they should be.
If you fall within that seven out of 10 designations, it’s worthwhile to reevaluate your nonprofit’s tagline strategy. Here are three benefits to having an effective tagline for your mission-driven organization:
- Differentiation: According to Red Crow Marketing, consumers see between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements daily. Having a standout tagline can help your nonprofit break through the noise and make a connection with a new potential donor and/or volunteer.
- Branding: Brands typically consist of a name, logo, colors, fonts, and— you guessed it— a tagline. A strong nonprofit tagline will give your organization extra support in terms of brand recognition.
- Consistency: Since taglines capture the heart of your nonprofit’s mission, they can serve as a guiding element for all your future campaigns. You can always revisit your tagline when making marketing plans to be sure you’re in line with your nonprofit’s core mission and brand identity.
What makes a good tagline?
Coming up with a phrase that represents the entirety of your nonprofit in eight short words (or less!) is no easy task. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of characteristics that will make your tagline stand out from the rest. We’ve also got the steps you can take when you start the process of drafting your own.
6 Attributes of a Strong Tagline
Let’s start with the attributes of a strong tagline:
- Clear: A tagline should make sense and be easy to understand. Think about using a navigation app for directions— you want your tagline to simply and surely show people what your nonprofit is about in the same way that maps tell you how to get somewhere.
- Concise: When it comes to taglines, the shorter they are, the better. Something that is quick and simple is much more memorable than a novel of a phrase. Definitely aim for less than 10 words— but again, the shorter, the better.
- Relevant: Make sure your tagline actually portrays your nonprofit’s mission. It might make sense to you, someone who is close to the nonprofit and even maybe wrote the tagline themselves, but think about it from your audience’s perspective. Will someone who has never heard of your brand get the gist of your nonprofit’s purpose from reading its tagline? If not, time to head back to the drawing board.
- Branded: You probably already have a name and logo for your nonprofit. Make sure your tagline feels at home in the style of your current branding. Also, going back to the idea of differentiation, your tagline should be identifiable as yours specifically. It shouldn’t be generic to the point that your audience gets confused and mistakes it for another brand.
- Consistent: Your tagline shouldn’t change on a regular basis. A big component of a tagline’s success is that it builds recognizability over time. Put your tagline on all your brand materials and make sure it looks the same every time, from words all the way down to punctuation and capitalization.
- Catchy: Finally, a strong tagline should be catchy. More people will be interested in your nonprofit if you have a tagline that catches their eye and sticks in their head. Get creative, and write something memorable while also accurately representing your mission.
Wouldn’t it be frustrating for us to tell you what makes a good tagline, but not how to write one? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with five steps to writing your own stellar tagline.
5 Steps to Coming Up With Your Very Own Tagline
The technique of writing a tagline is very similar to other creative processes. Your nonprofit needs to know what it’s aiming for before diving in, and be open to where the brainstorm takes you. Here are our five foolproof steps to writing a tagline:
- Start with the end. Before diving into actual tagline writing, ask yourself some key questions about your nonprofit:
- What is our core mission and purpose that we want to communicate? You need to know the idea you’re trying to articulate prior to brainstorming.
- Where do we want our nonprofit to be in five years? Like we mentioned, a tagline’s biggest strength lies in its consistency. Look to create a tagline that embodies where you want to go, and will remain relevant as your nonprofit develops.
- Who do we want to reach? Think about your target audience and what they will respond to as you begin writing your tagline.
- Consider emotions. Different words conjure up different feelings, moods, and connotations. The words you choose for your tagline are no exception. What is the emotional vibe of your nonprofit? Choose words that line up with the answer to that question.
- Come up with many, many options. In the brainstorming phase, no idea is a bad idea! Even if some of the taglines you come up with would never make the final cut, it’s a great exercise to figure out what you like and don’t like, then move forward. Throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks, so to speak.
- Don’t try to be too perfect. A tagline can be bad, and a tagline can be good— but you’d be hard pressed to find a tagline that is completely perfect. It’s a subjective process, so work hard and once you arrive at a phrase you’re happy with, stick with it! Also, while consistency is important, it’s not impossible to change your tagline later on. Look at McDonald’s— they didn’t start out with “I’m Lovin’ It.” You shouldn’t aim to change your nonprofit’s tagline, but if you really need to at some point, it’s always a possibility.
- Look at examples. This isn’t to say model your tagline completely after someone else’s, but rather you should use examples as inspiration. Think about the thought process another nonprofit could have used to arrive at its tagline based on its mission. Then, do the same for your own tagline.
For in-depth advice on all facets of creating a nonprofit marketing plan, check out this guide. And if you want some expert-level help marketing your nonprofit, check us out here at Getting Attention.
Top Nonprofit Taglines
So far, we’ve given you some examples of memorable taglines in the for-profit space. Now we’ll provide you with some nonprofit taglines, ones that are more similar to your organization.
Here is a list of six strong nonprofit taglines organized by the size of the nonprofit:
These examples come from organizations whose mission extends to the entire world. Check out their taglines for clear illustrations of how to condense a concept that large into eight words or less.
- “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” – The United Methodist Church
This tagline is simple, meaningful, and memorable. The repetition sticks in people’s heads, and the welcoming nature of the writing reflects what this organization is about. According to its website, the mission of the United Methodist Church is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” With its tagline, the church is communicating that it is open to all people joining along in its mission.
- “For every child.” – UNICEF
An even better example of simplicity, UNICEF’s tagline clocks in at three words and expresses what UNICEF is about at its core: working toward the “survival, protection, and development” of children all across the world, according to its website.
Nonprofits of this size need worldwide recognition, and they utilize taglines to help achieve it.
Although these examples come from nonprofits slightly smaller than those of the former examples, their taglines feel equally as strong. Read on to see how national nonprofits tackle taglines:
- “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” – The United Negro College Fund
The United Negro College Fund “envisions a nation where all Americans have equal access to a college education that prepares them for rich intellectual lives” and works to increase the total number of Black college graduates in the U.S., according to its website. This tagline provokes thought relevant to the organization’s mission, calling on their audience to ponder how valuable people’s minds are— and subsequently, consider what they can do to encourage educational growth.
- “Holding power accountable” – Common Cause
Every word in this tagline holds enormous weight in the message it’s conveying. Common Cause is a nonprofit that exists to ensure the United States’ democracy fairly serves all its constituents, and does so by fighting for pro-democracy legislation like the recent Freedom to Vote Act. The tagline succinctly expresses that sentiment— and it has a serious tone that matches the organization itself, too.
The United Negro College Fund and Common Cause are excellent models for provocative and descriptive taglines, respectively. Think about which type would best fit your nonprofit.
Now we’ll look at nonprofits that while small in size, have taglines that feel larger than life.
- “Big sky. Big land. Big history.” – Montana Historical Society
Just because this nonprofit operates in a smaller area doesn’t mean its tagline is any less impactful. The Montana Historical Society describes itself as a “guardian of Montana’s history,” a history that this tagline appealingly illustrates as an expansive one full of sky and land.
- “Driving out hunger in Atlanta, one mile at a time.” – Second Helpings Atlanta
Second Helpings Atlanta is a locally based nonprofit that fights both food insecurity and food waste in the metro Atlanta area by delivering leftover food from restaurants and grocery stores to individuals in need and food banks. This tagline is on the longer side, yet remains memorable and clearly depicts what SHA volunteers do: drive leftover food from somewhere that doesn’t need it to someone who does.
Again, these are just some good examples for inspiration. Don’t get too caught up in what other nonprofits have done that you miss the chance to come up with something amazing and completely outside the box for your own mission-driven organization.
If you need more brainstorming resources, look at this guide to all the best nonprofit marketing blogs. They all have plenty of articles ready to help you come up with creative marketing plans, including but not limited to excellent taglines and powerful fundraising slogans, for your nonprofit.
A strong, well-written tagline can exponentially elevate your nonprofit’s brand and marketing efforts. We hope this article has been helpful to you in learning what a tagline is, why they’re important, how to create a great one, and what examples are out there.
Before we go, here are three extra educational resources for your nonprofit:
- Volunteer Management: The Essential Guide to Engaging (and Keeping) Volunteers. Volunteers are an essential resource to nonprofits as they pursue their missions. In order to build successful long-term relationships with volunteers, your nonprofit should actively look for ways to find volunteers and recognize them for their efforts. Read this guide for advice on the best volunteer recruitment and retainment practices.
- The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Grants for Nonprofits. Marketing expenses can take up to 15% of a nonprofit’s budget – you can alleviate some, if not all, of that financial burden with free money in the form of grants. This article will give you the scoop on all the best grants out there, and how to get them.
- Corporate Sponsorships: The Ultimate Nonprofit Guide. Corporate sponsorships are yet another valuable resource for your nonprofit to secure funds for its operations. This guide details what corporate sponsorships are, how to get them, and which companies offer the best sponsorship programs.