Four tactics for taking your messaging beyond sound bites

I’ve yet to be on the board of a ministry organization that did just one thing. So I know the challenge of summing up in a sound-bite-sized portion, a banquet-sized mission. In today’s fast food culture, would-be donors aren’t likely to hang around for a gourmet-quality explanation of your work. Serve it up quick or not at all seem the only options. But maybe not.

Check out the tasty advice from Wellspring Consulting on how to communicate complex causes to finicky listeners. Theirs is a four-pronged approach by which “nonprofit organizations providing multiple services can effectively convey what they do.”  If the Wellspring promise leaves you hungry for the whole enchilada, check out the source. In the meantime, here’s an appetizer version of what they have to say – with my commentary in italics.


  1. Identify a core element at the root of a complex set of programs, and create a captivating brand message built on that core. In other words, search out the common denominator  – that scarlet thread – that runs through all of your programming. Go back to the origins of your organization. What was the founding issue? Then connect the dots out to the present.
  2. Enlist major supporters through deep engagement. The good news is that once they bite, some donors are hooked and ready for more.  As the Wellspring writer tells us: “Major donors often wish to have a deep knowledge of the endeavors they might support, and they deliberate carefully about where their dollars will go.” So keep those more complex recipes close at hand. You will have opportunities to use them.
  3. Populate your board with influential people in the organization’s field. CEOs dream of big-money board members, but influencers are just as – or even more – valuable to your organization. When recruiting for your board, look for people who have the knowledge and passion to put their networks to work for your cause. And once they’ve signed on to serve, make sure they that the words of their mouths and meditations of their hearts are acceptable for advancing the organization.
  4. Build visibility with targeted audiences. You may wish that everyone in town (or the state, nation, or world) knew about your amazing ministry. But truth be told, the more important goal is that it is known by the right someone(s) – folks who’ve shown themselves in other settings to care about the same things as you.  As the Wellspring article warns: “Although interest in press attention is understandable, an attempt to boost visibility can lead to poorly conceived marketing expenditures yielding paltry gains.”

By introducing new entrees in small portions, at least some harried donors will slow down long enough to give your organization’s full menu a look. They are your best prospects for major gifts. And as for the casual donors – the folks who prefer to give and run – their gifts help, too.  Just don’t expect them to ask for anything more.

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