By Jeannine Brown, Consulting Association
HDH Advancement Group, LLC
Who knew when I was sitting in high school writing classes, passing notes back and forth (there were no cell phones, kids), that I would grow up and choose a job where I do a significant amount of writing? Between case statements, appeals, strategic plans, and even simple donor thank you letters – as nonprofit professionals, we are tasked with being strong, persuasive writers.
I was privileged and honored to receive a scholarship from AFP Global to attend the recent ICON Conference in New Orleans. First things first, yes. I ate beignets, and they were as delicious as you would imagine. Now, let’s talk about strengths-based messaging. One of the best and most well-attended sessions was Design Fresh Messaging, presented by the Alford Consulting Group. The room was packed and a testament to how many people in the non-profit sector desired to learn better strategies to communicate with donors and stakeholders. From this fantastic session, I gleaned three significant takeaways.
1) Always use people first language. By using people first language, you are upholding the dignity of those you are supporting. Instead of communicating low-income adults, using the phrase people living in low-income households is a better practice.
2) The power of strengths-based messaging is that it is equity-centric, empowering, and respectful. It avoids establishing heroes or saviors.
3) By moving away from the typical SWOT Analysis that we all know so well, move towards SOAR. As you write your communication pieces, examine your nonprofit through the themes of strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results. This shift in messaging invites your stakeholders to join you in envisioning a future filled with possibilities.
As a nonprofit consultant, I look forward to shifting how I approach my clients as we meet to develop messaging. I also may need to write my high school English teacher a note of gratitude.