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Key Messaging Creates Opportunities for Your Organization to Rise Above the Crowd

Key Messaging Creates Opportunities for Your Organization to Rise Above the Crowd

Learn how to focus your organization’s key messages to boost your credibility.


Here’s a question that every organization should answer:

If you had just FIVE minutes to sum up your organization in a way that someone could remember, what would you say?

Maybe you would focus on your organization’s years of service in the community… your unique long-term programs… your partnership with local resources… the needs of the local people you serve.

But what if you could focus on all of the above through a set of clear, concise key messages?

Key messaging is the summary of who you are as an organization. And unlike the statements above, your key messaging doesn’t just focus on one aspect of the work you do. It’s a holistic view of your work. It comes from your organization’s story, from the themes that come up over and over and that best define your strategy and goals.

Your key messaging also has to be memorable. If your key messaging is complicated, or full of lingo, there’s little chance it will be remembered. But if it’s clear and concise, there’s a greater chance your staff, your donors and people from your community will hang on to those focused statements when asked about your organization, or more easily utilize them when speaking to others.

Building memorable key messaging is especially important in educating others about your work. Your key messaging should address questions like, what makes your organization different? How do you stand out in the crowd of hundreds of other nonprofits in your area? Key messaging creates a memorable identity for your organization.

A concise, clear and consistent identity is the foundation of your reputation.

Developing concise, clear and consistent key messaging will help you rise above the rest of the crowd!  

Concise: Defines who you are quickly and memorably    

Clear: Talks to your target audiences  

Consistent: Used across all your channels

When you can answer yes to all 3, you stand apart from other nonprofits and organizations. Your key messaging leads to a good reputation – and, in turn, your credibility in the community grows.

Credibility is your key to being successful in raising money and building relationships with donors, prospects, media, local government, churches, businesses and other nonprofit organizations.

How do you create your key messaging?

Start by identifying 3 key messages that sum up the heart of your organization. An effective way to approach this is by asking 3 important questions:

  • What do you do?
  • Who do you do it for?
  • How do you do it?


By answering these 3 questions clearly and concisely, you’ll have a unified overview of your entire organization. Your key messages then act as the umbrella that covers the entire scope of what you do. Once you have your key messaging in place, your staff and others who speak on your behalf have a solid foundation from which to speak – and can then easily flesh out specific programs and services under that umbrella tailored to the audience.

This allows you to communicate much more consistently about the most important aspects of your work and what people need to know to be motivated to give.

Every employee at an organization should know the key messaging. Whether you have 10 minutes sitting in the bleachers talking to another parent as you watch your kids play soccer or you’ve been asked to speak for an hour at a local church… the information you share about your work needs to be concise, clear and consistent in order to continually build your organization’s credibility.

According to a survey of more than 1,500 fundraisers and nonprofit communicators conducted by marketing consultant Nancy E. Schwartz in 2012, just 24% of respondents said their messages connect with their target audiences. That means that more than 70% of nonprofits believe that their messaging isn’t meaningful to the people with whom they most want to communicate.

pie-chart of organization messaging - Brewer Direct marketing

Here’s what happens when you DON’T have key messaging in place…

  • You send your women’s shelter director to speak to the Golden Ager’s Sunday school class at the First Baptist Church. They only learn about the women’s program.
  • You send your program director to speak to the local chapter of the American Nurses Association. They only learn about your long-term resident recovery program
  • You send your long-time, most committed board member to speak at the Rotary Club. When he gets there, he finds out he can’t ask for money during his talk. This put him all out of sorts, so he ends up talking about why he is a board member. It’s very moving. They learn all about him and a few things about your Mission.


Wait, you may be saying. These all sound positive! I want people from my community to learn more about my organization’s services and programs, and how others are involved! Yes, of course – it’s great that people know more about you and your work.

Without a unified key messaging strategy, your community is getting a very limited and fragmented idea about your organization. When your staff or board members only talk about the pieces they know, they may be leaving out the very pieces that separate your organization from others locally and make you different.

In short, what makes you different is what often makes a person choose to support your organization!

Developing key messaging isn’t just simple branding. It’s a strategy that summarizes who you are in a concise, clear and consistent way to communicate your organization’s identity and build your credibility in the community. Your credibility leads to contributions as you stand out in the crowd of hundreds of other nonprofits in your area.

photo of Shellie Speer - nonprofit marketing
Want help building your key messaging? Brewer Direct’s Executive VP Client Strategic Development – and key messaging expert – Shellie Speer can help!

Tell us what key messaging has worked for you @brewerdirect!

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(626) 359-1015

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