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Your Organization’s Story: In Ten Minutes

Posted by on June 21st, 2016
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Messaging    Tags: , , , , ,

“Tell me about your organization.”

This command often strikes fear and freeze in the minds of nonprofit staff and board. Not quite sure how to summarize all the good done by their organization they begin a recitation of programs, facts and figures.

Instead, we recommend your begin with a high-level overview—your One Minute Message—driven by a deeply held value of your organization. Next, you should introduce the problem you exist to solve—a Two Minute Message. And then you should share an anecdote—a Five Minute Message—that illustrates the impact 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 Ten Minute Messages because we believe they only have an impact if you use them last, rather than first.

Here’s a reminder of how the Minute Message Model is structured.

messaging structure

Ten Minute 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 Ten Minute Messages to serve you most effectively, however, these details must be followed by 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, Youth Outside, once more in this last post in our 4-part Minute Message Model series. Below, we’ve shared their One Minute Message that introduces them in a concise way, a Two Minute Message that explains one of the problems their work solves, and a Five Minute Message anecdote that illustrates the impact of their work. We’ve completed the series with a Ten Minute Message that details how they accomplish results. The underlined portions of the Ten Minute Message reinforce why this approach supports their overall vision.

Youth Outside's One Minute Message sets the scene.

But you know, there’s a problem…

Youth Outside's 2 Minute Message shows why they exist and what problem they exist to solve.

Let me give you an example…

Then Youth Outside shares an anecdote, or 5 Minute Message, to offer an emotional tie for the audience.

Here’s how we made that happen…

Then Youth Outside transitions into its 10 Minute Message, which shares programmatic details.

Do you see how the details included in the Ten Minute Message wouldn’t be as impactful if this was the first or only information you received about Youth Outside? The detail alone could overwhelm, and would likely result in disinterest rather than engagement.

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 Ten Minute 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 One Minute MessageTwo Minute Message, and Five Minute Message


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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