Welcome to the final installment of our Messaging That’s Memorable blog series in which we guide you through our four-part messaging structure that we use with our clients to help them communicate who they are and what they do in a succinct yet compelling way.
“Tell me about your organization.”
This command often strikes fear and freeze in the minds of nonprofit staff and board. They know the ins and outs of your organization, are experts in the cause they fight for, and know why their work matters. Yet, when asked, many don’t know how to summarize all that passion and goodness in a quick, clear way so they begin a recitation of programs, facts and figures. In other words, the how of the work rather than the why. Doing so reduces the effectiveness of your communication because you’ve failed to first establish the relevance and importance of your mission.
So the next time someone asks you about your organization, we recommend you begin with a high-level overview—your Belief Message—otherwise known as an “elevator pitch.” It’s the message you would share if you only had an elevator ride’s duration to convince someone to love your organization. Next, introduce the problem your organization exists to address—a Problem Message. This names the problem or problems you’re in business to solve. And then share an anecdote—an Impact Message—that illustrates the outcome of your work.
Those programmatic details you may be using to introduce your organization are important messages, but they shouldn’t be the first things that you say. We call them Detail Messages because we believe they only work to clarify your importance if you use them last, rather than first.
Here’s a reminder of how the Minute Message Model is structured.
Detail Messages are intended to:
Detail how you achieve results
Explain programmatic details
Name operational specifics
Invite the reader/listener’s participation
The good news is that you likely already have these messages. You are probably well versed in your various programs, projects, and initiatives, the services you offer, and the communities in which you work. You may have already detailed some of these things for your website or other printed collateral.
For your Detail Messages to serve you most effectively, however, these details must include an explanation of how they support your overall vision. What is the benefit of this project, program, or approach? This is key in reminding your listener of what you stand for.
Let’s revisit Mission Minded client Puente once more in this last post in our 4-part Minute Message Model series. Below, we’ve shared their Belief Message that introduces them in a concise way, a Problem Message that explains one of the problems their work addresses, and an Impact Message anecdote that illustrates the impact of their programs. We’ve completed the series with aDetail Message that details how they accomplish results. The Detail Message reinforces why this approach supports their overall vision.
Start with: Belief Message
All individuals, families, and communities have dreams for the future. At Puente, we believe that self-sufficiency is essential for turning those dreams into reality. Every day, we walk side-by-side with our South Coast neighbors as they cross the bridge toward independence. By advocating for health, education, and community development, we elevate our communities to build confidence for themselves. Because when people have equitable access to the local resources that support their dreams, they’re one step closer to realizing them.
But you know, there’s a problem…
Health insurance, quality education, affordable housing, and employment rights remain inaccessible to many in Pescadero, La Honda, Loma Mar, and San Gregorio. These systems that surround San Mateo County, like so many other U.S. communities, are complex and often uphold historic racial oppression and discrimination. Our South Coast neighbors deserve an ally that shares tools for self-advocacy, empowering them to overcome these barriers of oppression and move confidently forward into their future.
Let me give you an example…
Lourdes has a green card to live and work in the U.S. and likes to visit her family in Mexico. However, when the Trump administration unveiled a very strict policy on immigration, Lourdes was afraid that green cards might be revoked, or that Mexican immigrants might not be able to return to the U.S. if they travel to Mexico.
Lourdes wanted to apply for citizenship, but the cost of an application was more than she could afford, and its requirements involve a U.S. civics and history exam. Instead of being discouraged by this, Lourdes got motivated and sought financial assistance from Puente to pay the fee and a tutor to help her study for the exam. In the end, Lourdes not only aced her exam and became a U.S. citizen; her deep trust in Puente alleviated her anxiety about deportation, giving her the tools to gain citizenship, to continue to build her own thriving life, and in return, volunteer to tutor others who are also seeking U.S. citizenship.
Here’s how we made that happen…
When our neighbors know their rights with regards to employment, housing, and immigration, they have the confidence and courage they need to further their own self-sufficiency. Puente’s Advocacy programs promote fair policies across these sectors while developing the next generation of leaders to elevate the voices of the South Coast.
Do you see how this detail about Puente’s Advocacy programs included in the Details Message wouldn’t be as impactful if this was the first or only information you received about Puente? The detail alone shares one part of what they do collectively and doesn’t directly state what they believe in. So starting with this level of programmatic detail would likely result in people only associating Puente with an advocacy program (a feature of their work), rather than the more memorable and motivating high-level vision and belief that those they serve deserve an ally that empowers them to overcome barriers of oppression. Put simply, you can’t expect your listeners to be interested in how you do what you do if you haven’t given them the opportunity to connect with and understand why it matters.
When you and your colleagues all use your messages—including your Detail Messages—consistently and strategically, you’ll be efficient and effective advocates for your organization, and be well on your way to securing the support you need to achieve your mission. We hope you’ve found the Minute Message Model blog post series helpful in thinking about your own organization’s communications. If you’ve missed the other posts in the series, check out our posts on the Belief Message, Problem Message, and Impact Message.
Is your organization trying to refine how you talk about your yourselves and your work? Mission Minded can help! Reach out to us so that we can explore the possibilities for you!
Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded and a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding and positioning nonprofit organizations.
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