Who Are You? Telling Your Nonprofit’s Stories

This is not a trip down memory lane about the famous song by the equally famous band The Who. But the question is as relevant today to any organization as it was to the youth culture back in 1978.

Who are you?

The nonprofit industry has a unique advantage over any other business: the ability to tap into an endless supply of emotional stories that support their mission. Those stories should serve as a catalyst for messaging, and many organizations do an exceptional job ofstorytelling. What many organizations struggle with is the differentiator.

Pulling out that one unique and compelling aspect of any nonprofit can be extremely difficult and it requires digging, but it’s worth the effort. Why? Because you are competing with other similar missions and being able to differentiate your mission (the “who are you?” question), will drive support. The obvious goal is to capture a donor’s attention – no one will argue with that. But the other reason is equally critical. A donor who is particularly passionate about a cause may support both organizations if they feel that both serve different but equally compelling missions. How cool is that?

I’ll use animal rescue to illustrate my point. Let’s say there are two organizations focused on saving hedgehogs (I don’t know if such organizations exist, but those little critters are adorable). One organization’s work focuses on education and the other provides a 24-hour rescue service. Both are equally critical to the overall goal but their focus is quite different and must be articulated.

The above example greatly simplifies the issue, but I think you get my point. It will be more difficult for you to find that one differentiator that drives your mission, but brainstorming and continuing to drill down until you have hit that nugget is an exercise that can yield tremendous results. Once you have your differentiator you can tie it up in a concise message that simply but passionately answers the question, “Who are you?”