What is your Message?

Succession planning and leadership development expand the capacity of the organization by engaging more leaders in spreading the mission. The art is in engaging. How do we build a message that connects to potential new leaders, encourages them to think about the cause, and involves them in changing it?

Like corporations, nonprofits have a brand, and building that brand is the first step in engaging leaders and creating social change. Because our world is full of marketing and branding, we are used to the corporate methods of reaching out. Nonprofits need to embrace these tools to recruit new leaders. The first step is to build a consistent engaging message.

While, corporations sell products or services, nonprofits’ messages are more complicated. The messages are always connected to the need but the angles are different depending on the target audience. Often organizations provide services and advocate for social change to eradicate the need in the long run. Both of these activities need resources and leaders to spread. The messages are two sides of the same coin.

Successful marketing does not target the general public. In fact the more specific and descriptive the target audience is the more successful the message will be. Begin by identifying the goal of the message:  the direct services available, the social change needed, or how leaders effect that change or help provide services. If the organization wants to engage a leader in advocating for social change then highlight leaders connecting with government leaders and invite new leaders to participate. The message is not how much money or other resources are needed. Nonprofits message the need and ask for resources to effect change.

To engage leaders, the mission must excite them.  A blog written by a volunteer leader, an ad showing a leader speaking to legislators, a leader talking about his experiences to a group of potential leaders or one on one. It is the same message but using different tools.

A new leader might be excited by the work, but if she does not feel welcome then she probably won’t participate. Diversity can be a chicken and egg phenomena; it is hard to build diverse leadership if the organization is not diverse. This is one of the main reasons why it is important to articulate the specific people targeted before starting the marketing effort. People are more likely to get involved when they can picture themselves engaged in the work. Seeing someone like them, helps them make the connection.

Is there an area that is not being served? Often organizations use leaders to help them expand their reach into a new community. Organizations gain credibility and trust when their message is delivered by someone who is part of the community being targeted. Don’t know anyone? Send a tweet asking followers for a referral or connect to government leaders and ask them for suggestions.

Nonprofits have many tools to expand their following. How do they use these tools to engage? That is the subject of the next post.

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