If you are trying to reach everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one.

That statement resonated with me. During my time in graduate school I firmly believed that nonprofits, especially museums by their socially democratic nature, should be for everyone. However, as I have traveled the country and the field of nonprofit management, I have found that branding could not be more important. Knowing what your message is and who your audience is will be the two biggest challenges a nonprofit will encounter perennially. Overcoming these obstacles will produce a mission and a service that will not only find your core audience,  but keep them engaged as well.

I’ve already discussed converting your mission to the medium in which it is being relayed in The Medium is the Message, as well as putting forth the notion of creating personas in UX for NonProfits. The next step is scaffolding your mission to your audience’s attention span. Here are three steps to making sure you’re prepared to speak to your organization, no matter how long that elevator ride may be!

  1. Three seconds of attention-span
    Craft your mission statement carefully, revisit it regularly, and get staff and audience buy-in. This phrase (containing no more than a sentence or two) should be able to convey the values, goals and impact of your organization immediately. Most mission statements are written out in collateral or online, so they can be a bit more complex in their syntax. Mission statements should be the window into your organization.
  2. Three-minutes of attention-span
    If you have a bit more time and the opportunity to speak to your audience directly, your elevator pitch will be your best friend. This well-rehearsed, succinct and easy-to-digest spiel should convey not only content, but emotion. Describing why your organization is beneficial will showcase the values, rational and prospective future of your cause. It should also convey your passion and motivation, which during an elevator pitch can be more important than the pitch itself.
  3. 13-minutes of attention-span
    For the captive in-person audience or YouTube subscribers of your organization, your nonprofit origin story will be the alpha and omega of your messaging. Much like the TED Talks ‘genius in 18 minutes’ theory,your organization’s presentation should be succinct, compelling and have a narrative. However, crafting this longer talk about you and your organization will require a basic understanding of storytelling and a lot of practice and refinement. For inspiration, take a look at Melinda Gates’ TED Talk.
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