What Sets You Apart?
The end of the calendar year means one major thing for nonprofits – fundraising. With strategies and rollout already in place for many nonprofits (and being finalized for others), the deluge of asks and donation requests is about to hit inboxes around the country.
As most of your potential donors are on the email rolls of multiple nonprofit organizations, the number of appeals these individuals can receive during a single day (Giving Tuesday) or during a week (the last week of the year) can be overwhelming.
With so many nonprofits making asks during this time, how can your organization possibly stand out? So many causes are worthy of donor dollars, and so many organizations are working to create real change – how can your organization stand out in this crowded field? What sets you apart?
Determining what makes you different comes down to crafting a compelling narrative. It comes from understanding how the major pieces of your organization’s history and progress fit into a story worth telling, a cause worth supporting. Be careful to avoid jargon and too many numbers when discussing your organization’s story – without context, these features muddle your message and hurt your message.
What’s are impressive numbers in terms of total people helped? How many are necessary to show real impact? Your average reader or donor has no concept of the size or scope of your work; including numbers of people helped, items donated, or animals saved are meaningless. And if your organization is small, your contributions will pale in comparison to those organizations with larger market power.
Instead, it is useful to capture the story of your organization through the individual impact on others – whether it be people, animals, the environment, etc. Everyday your organization is contributing to the story of your constituents, and thereby creating your own narrative around the work you are accomplishing. Put your reader in the shoes of someone using your services – allow them to see just why it is important that your organization continues to be supported.
One of the obvious ways in which organizations are different from one another is in the people they employ. Each individual employee has a diverse set of experiences, a unique point of view, a special way of communicating your organization’s goals and mission.
Putting branding and organization voice aside for a moment – consider asking your staff for the reasons as to why they work for the organization. What donations and contributions from the general public mean to them. What experiences and life events brought them to this work, and why they are dedicated to continuing to work towards creating an impact.
So many appeals and letters come from stilted Executive Directors or CEO’s of various organizations – consider using one of your assets, your people, in a new way to help you differentiate yourselves from the other organizations asking for your donor’s attention.
After attending the Disrupting Boundaries – Innovating for Social Change Conference last week, one of the topics that stayed with me is the idea that you can’t create change without leverage. Your leverage can be any number of things:
- Money – often times in the form of government grants, donor dollars, corporate sponsorships
- Influence – contacts with politicians or celebrities that wield legislative or cultural clout
- Market power – being the largest and most effective in your field
- Data – having the numbers and statistics to back up your methodology and show your efficacy
You have the opportunity to use these assets to your advantage in setting yourself apart from your competition. Use them. If you can’t identify a source of leverage, go out and find one. Create your opportunity to be different.
Here are some links we’ve read this week that caught our attention:
- Matt Petronzio from Mashable shares five Chrome extensions that help users be more charitable, including the plug-in from our friends at GoodShop.
- Can you crowdsource for overhead? Hila Mehr of Causevox discusses the subject and provides examples.
- Brandon Granger from Blackbaud investigates if responsive design really helps nonprofits raise more money.
- As we approach year-end, nonprofit staff often discuss donor retention. Allyson Kapin provides communication tips to improve donor retention.
- Simone Joyaux from NPQ details the importance of engaging previous board members.