How to Connect: Be Coherent, Consistent, and Human

Kevin D. Hendricks
Published on | 
July 19, 2023
How to Connect: Be Coherent, Consistent, and Human

Marketing is full of overnight sensations. From TikTok to artificial intelligence, there’s a lot of flash-in-the-pan success these days. But that’s not a likely path to success for your nonprofit. If you want to break through, it’s more likely to happen with a coherent message, consistent communication, and human connection. 

Don’t waste your time chasing that viral moment. 

Just look at what happens to some of those overnight success stories. Cryptocurrency isn’t looking so shiny these days. TikTok is facing government bans, never mind the inherent danger of investing in someone else’s platform.

Instead, your nonprofit organization needs to focus on the fundamentals. Don’t swing for the fences, just go for solid base hits. 

1. Coherent Message

You need a coherent message.

First and foremost, you need to focus on the core message of your nonprofit. Who do you serve? What problem do you solve? How can people help? 

Your message needs clarity. 

Why: We scroll 300 feet a day, we’re too busy, distracted, and overwhelmed to parse a confusing message. So keep it simple. 

There’s no viral ad that can save you if you can’t explain it in 140 characters or less. Twitter may have abandoned that arbitrary character limit long ago, but there was wisdom in that forced exercise in brevity. 

If your message is muddled, take some time to clarify your brand message. It will pay off in effectiveness. 

Here’s how: Refine your brand message.

  • Take stock: Look at what you’re currently communicating. You’ve probably got a tagline, an elevator pitch, an about paragraph describing what you do. Look at your marketing—your social posts, mailers, banners, newsletters, etc. What message are all those elements communicating? Is what you do clear? Is everything consistent or do you see some discrepancies? Don’t worry, it happens to the best. But you have to start by recognizing it.
  • Recast your brand: Before you try refining those messages to make them consistent, take a step back and retell the story of your brand. Who do you serve? What problem do you solve? How can people help? Answer these questions, even if you’ve done it before, and rework your brand. Your message inevitably shifts, both intentionally and unintentionally, so take some time to reassess. There are programs and books, such as Donald Miller’s Storybrand, that can help immensely with this process.
  • Implement it: Once you’ve clarified your brand, now you need to implement it. Work the new tagline into your marketing, update your about copy on the website, reframe some of your social content so it’s telling your story the right way. 
  • Repeat: Let’s be honest, this is an ongoing process. Messages become incoherent over time. New team members communicate in a slightly different way, you focus on different projects, you latch onto different language. It happens. Sometimes it’s good for your organization and can lead you to new growth. But you need to make sure your core message always comes through with clarity. That might mean repeating this process every few years.

My360Project knew how vital it was to communicate their core message about changing lives with shoes, so they put it in a text. They tell anyone and everyone to text SHOES to 24365 to learn what they do. They keep it simple, and it works—even in conversation with strangers at the bar.

2. Consistent Communication

You need consistent communication.

Viral success rarely happens because somebody made one video. It happens because they made 99 other videos that weren’t viral sensations and finally hit the jackpot. But you still don’t create those 100 videos looking for the longshot. 

You create that much content in order to communicate consistently. Supporters need to hear from you. That means regular updates. 

We get it—you’re already busy. This doesn’t mean you need daily social posts or weekly emails. 

But you do need to communicate with a consistent cadence. 

Why: Your audience is as busy as you. They didn’t hear you the first time. Or the fifth time. The only way to break through is consistent communication.

It’s the mantra of marketing—you need at least seven touchpoints to convert a customer.

Salvation Army Great Lakes Division gets it and created an integrated marketing strategy: “I think of retailers that I get texts from, if I see them on Instagram, and then I get a promotional email, and then I get a text, I'm much more likely to interact with them by that third touchpoint than if it just comes out of nowhere,” said Digital Marketing Specialist Anna Davenport.

Here’s how: That sounds a little exhausting, right? Don’t worry, we’ll explore how to find the rhythm that works for your organization. 

  • Create a plan: Consistent communication only happens with a plan. You need to schedule all your various marketing channels. Create a cadence when content can be expected. It’s easier for you to crank out material and your audience will become accustomed to it. 
  • No, a realistic plan: Now start over and create a plan you can actually deliver. There’s no way you’re doing videos, emails, and webinars every week, plus social posts multiple times a day. Be realistic: What can you actually complete? Remember you have all your other work to do, so plan accordingly. 
  • Recycle content: One way to make your content consistent is to recycle what you create. That webinar gets turned into five video clips, two blog posts, a dozen social media updates, and a prominent place in your email newsletter. And one piece of content magically becomes 20. They still require work, but it’s vastly easier to repurpose than to start from scratch.
  • Use a template: Another way to make content creation easier is to come up with a template. Here’s the template we use for our monthly emails—announce our webinar, share a tip from a recent blog post, and highlight a nonprofit. It’s three simple things we put in every email newsletter, and they all come from existing material (recycle!). 

This kind of consistent communication will keep your supporters informed and grow that fanbase.

3. Human Connection

You need to connect. That requires being human.

There’s a reason reality TV is endlessly popular and the news media loves a human interest story. We relate to other people. So that’s the best way to connect.

Why: You can’t be a stodgy, corporate organization and expect people to get excited about what you do. 

Here’s how: Put it in human terms. 

  • Be conversational: It’s not a college essay, write like a human. Use shorter sentences. Make it punchy. Break up paragraphs with bullet points. Use an element of surprise or even whimsy. You’re not being graded by a grammar teacher, you’re trying to connect with people. And you’ll never connect if your copy puts them to sleep.
  • Be authentic: People can spot a fake a mile away. You need to be genuine. Sharing stats that are hard to read? Admit it: These are hard stories to hear, but that’s the reality people are facing. Not sure you’re going to meet that audacious goal? Be up front about it: This is a big goal, but we want to dream big. Have to deliver hard news? Be honest: You’ll notice our tuition is going up this year, but we want to be upfront about why.
  • Why it matters: Always focus on why it matters to people. It’s easy for fundraising to be too focused on a dollar goal or a giving milestone. But you always need to tie it back to how you’re helping people. Yes, you hit that monthly goal of 50 new donors, but what impact will that have? How many meals, how much clean water, how many classrooms?
  • Tell stories: Talk about the impact your work is having on real people. Tell those stories. Seeing real world examples can cut through all the verbiage and excuses, pushing people to act. That’s what Special Olympics Virginia does, using real athletes in voicemail drops: “Not only does it make it that much more personal, but when we send the voicemails that say ‘This is Emily, our athlete,’ she’s actually talking to them and so they know we didn’t just make up an Emily,” said Director of Marketing Services Aliza Tekavec.

Connect With Clarity

“If you’re in the charity world, you’re a storyteller,” said Jeff Baxter, the vice president of community engagement for the HEADstrong Foundation. “So the more honed in and polished your storytelling capabilities and communication lines are, the healthier you’re going to be.”

So forget going viral. Instead, hone your message, communicate consistently, and tell stories that connect.

Ready to learn more? Get started with Rally and we can help you connect.

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