Mission Positioning During Tough Times [Reposted]

Mission Positioning During Tough Times


In these times of uncertainty, I hope you’re staying safe, healthy, and sane. 

There’s a lot of fear out there, and a lot of panic, too. I keep hearing words like Unprecedented. Crazy. Unsettling. 

Words Carry Emotion

… and these words carry a ton of it. We’ve written many times before about the importance of choosing the right words for your planned giving communications.* And along with proper branding, it’s more important now than ever before. In fact, ensuring your message gets out during this unprecedented, crazy, and unsettling time is critical

A Little Empathy Goes A Long Way

Many of your donors are feeling helpless, powerless, and cut off. They want to help, and they want to take action — they just don’t know how. You can give them that opportunity, and by coupling emotion with logic and data (see webinars that cover this), you’ll have a much better shot at seeing results.

Some nonprofits have stopped offering services. Others have halted all communications, marketing efforts, and fundraising drives. 

They’re frozen in place (or should I say, in space), caught up in a web of fear and uncertainty. And they are especially afraid their communications might come off as inappropriate or insensitive. It has already happened, and that’s understandable.

Tact and Prudence

Yet they still need to keep the lights on and continue their missions. They have a responsibility not only to the causes they serve, but to the people they employ.

I get it. This is not an easy time for anyone. But we all still need to keep going — just in a tactful and prudent way. 

Here are some of the thoughts I’ve had over the last few weeks. Most revolve around ways to build up your image through the crisis, so that you can keep moving forward and come out even stronger.


Is your messaging appropriate for the current climate? Do you have any canned messages scheduled to go out over the next few weeks or months? Email campaigns, social media posts, blogs, videos, podcasts ... even customer service auto-responders. Check them — don’t make the same mistake others have made. 

Ensure that what you are continuing to share or promote is relevant. More so, that it is valuable or helpful. 

Keep in mind that you will not be able to please everyone. Ideally, you continue to speak to your target audience and give them what they need. 

This will lead to increased donor loyalty and retention.

Does current situation change tone or messaging? 

Make those edits now, so that unexpected or irrelevant content doesn't get in front of your customers and harm the perception of your philanthropic mission.

If you do anything, do this first.

Then, tweak any content or campaigns that you may have planned to create for the near future. 


Are you being helpful in an authentic way?

Communicate how your mission is truly important during a time like this. 

When emotions are at a high level, you don't want to capitalize on people's decision-making. You want to diffuse it and be a source of relief and inspiration. 

Support your audience by connecting with them. Share knowledge, and be motivating. 

Fueling positive emotions will only create a stronger bond to your organization for the future as we come out of this challenging time.

Is there information or education that you can share which will move them through their challenges? 


Have you been communicating everything?

In times like this, you don't want to be frozen and close off communication. Be as transparent as you can. 

Yes, you might feel like you are sending out yet another COVID-19 email. 

Don't overthink that. 

Most of your supporters want to know how you’re addressing concerns, and handling directives from officials.

Your audience, especially the ones that support your mission, want to hear what you are doing during this time.

They want to know specifically:

  • How are you handling the needs and concerns of those your mission serves?
  • How are you supporting your employees' safety and well-being?
  • How are you contributing positively to the community?

Use your communication channels to share your position on these things. 


What are you doing to stay in front of people?

You should always be marketing your philanthropic mission. But do so now in a tactful and empathetic way. 

Your organization needs to keep its livelihood. Just be responsible and respectful of where your audience is right now.

Cutting marketing activity right now is risky, contrary to what you might think. 

Consider that protecting the short-term could leave you weaker for the long-term.

Staying consistent and persistent with your marketing maintains your share of donor attention and competitive position.

You have the ability to deliver very targeted messages to your ideal donor. Digital marketing, telemarketing and direct personal mail are ways to do this now. 

Spend time on the right channels that you know your audience consumes content in, and please use tips #1 and #2 above to guide you with your campaigns.

  1. BE OPEN

Ask yourself some of these questions:

✔ Can you LEARN something new during this time? 

✔ Are you able to PIVOT and offer something new?

✔ How can you LEVERAGE technology to do things in a new way? 

✔ Is there new audience that can BENEFIT from what you do?

Key is Being Open to NEW Things. 

For some this is easy-peasy, they are programmed like that. For others, it's going to be out of your comfort zone.

Change is hard. Sometimes, however, it is necessary.

You need a defined purpose, promises, and voice to support and guide your communications throughout a challenge. Plus the ability to convey your unique value.

Lead With Your Why.

These are key elements that allow you to connect with your target audience in powerful ways with a powerful brand, mission and communications strategy. 

Ways that help your supporters stay loyal and support you through something like what we are facing. 

Be prepared for the future with a strong message that people love.

Don’t be afraid to communicate with your donors right now (webinar). Don’t be afraid to take action. Because — trust me — inaction will hurt you more in the long term. Why? Because inaction has consequences.

Internally, develop a “culture of progress” and become the gold standard for your mission.

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* (If you want proof that branding and emotional language fuels decision-making,  just look at the passion exhibited by people who love products from Apple, Tesla, Nike, Harley-Davidson and others. 

We know it works in the nonprofit sector, too. Think for a second about  “brands” like Habitat for Humanity, The Red Cross, and The Salvation Army. Even the SPCA around the corner that made “Saving Fifi the Poodle” their brand. You know their mission, even if you’ve never had anything to do with them.)