Donors want to know that they’re making a difference with their gifts. That’s always been the case, and it’s even more true now with the current recession going on.
So that’s why it’s important to take a look at your donor communications with a healthy dose of skepticism, as Pamela Barden suggests in her blog post.
Here are the four questions she recommends that fundraisers should ask themselves as a kind of self-test, a check to see if we’re on the right track:
- So what? You should be clear about why your organization exists, the impact it’s having, and the outcomes it’s producing. By asking So what? you keep the focus on what matters to your donor.
- Who’s doing it better? You need to know what other similar nonprofits are doing and what they’re saying about what they do. It’s important to know how your organization is different.
- What’s our unique selling proposition? You’ve probably heard this marketing term before, but it still applies. It’s all about conveying a specific benefit to your donor that she can’t get anywhere else.
- What’s the best story to show this specialness? This is where you connect emotionally with donors and do it in a way that shows how what your organization does matters – and deserves your donor’s support.
Great questions, all. But really, when you think about it, these questions are aiming at basically one thing – positioning. The positioning of your nonprofit. And that basically comes down to the one thing or couple of things that make your nonprofit different from the others.
So, it’ll be helpful to think about the answers to these four questions, and use them to come up with a positioning statement for your nonprofit.
A positioning statement, not a mission statement. They’re vastly different. A mission statement is more aspirational, more pie-in-the-sky. Mission statements for most nonprofits are generally pretty vague and not all that useful for fundraising.
A positioning statement, on the other hand, is useful for fundraising, because it captures what your organization does and what it does that’s different.
There’s a lot of information out there on positioning statements, and there are lots of templates to use in creating one. A basic template, though, for a positioning statement is this: For <target audience>, <organization> is a <type of nonprofit> that <differentiator>.
Let’s look at an example. Say the nonprofit is a homeless shelter that’s open all day, every day and allows people who are homeless to stay as long as they need to in order to get their lives back on track, achieving the goal of permanent housing.
So for this nonprofit, we might have a positioning statement like:
For donors who want to help people who are homeless, Hope Shelter is the social services nonprofit that provides the short-term or long-term stability a homeless person needs to overcome their challenges, secure permanent housing, and return to society.
This is one out of many possibilities, of course. There isn’t necessarily one right answer when it comes to a positioning statement, and it may change over time as your nonprofit changes. But like any positioning statement, it can be a helpful measure to see whether your fundraising communications are on-strategy.
But there’s an even simpler way. There have been tons of books, articles, webinars, and more on the topic of positioning and branding. The more you read about it, the more dizzyingly complex it becomes. But there’s a far simpler – and many would say – better way to approach it.
The branding and positioning for most of the world’s biggest brands can often be reduced to one adjective or at least one word.
Volvos are safe. Porsches are fast. Apple computers are intuitive. Nike is aspirational. You get the idea. One word that signals a difference, a direction. Sure, it’s simple, but in marketing and fundraising, simple is powerful. And it’s easy to keep in mind when you’re creating appeals.
So what’s the word for your nonprofit? In the example for the shelter above, the word might be “stability.”
Stability in the sense that the shelter is an oasis in the chaos and uncertainty of living out on the street … that the shelter is always open, 24/7, to help someone who’s homeless … that someone who’s homeless can stay as long as needed to turn their life around … that the ultimate goal is for the person to find permanent housing … that addressing homelessness creates a stronger, better community for everyone, including the donor, and so on.
Once you have a clear positioning for your nonprofit, you can check your donor communications against it, and that means, instead of seat-of-the-pants, you’re operating from a strategy – a much better way to go.