Make Your Nonprofit Stand Out: Creating Impressions for Impact
By: Melissa Lagowski
Founder, CEO, and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
Every time we interact with another person, we make an impression. Each interaction—especially our very first one with someone—is an opportunity to establish a genuine connection and build a positive relationship.
A business may call it a “brand image” or “company image” but this concept applies to a nonprofit too. Your organization creates its own “brand image” through each touchpoint it makes with donors, volunteers, people you serve, and others in the community.
Have you paused to think about all those touchpoints and what type of impression your organization is making? Here are some areas to consider:
The person (or team) who answers your phones literally conveys the voice of your organization. What is the tone? How do these conversations make callers feel? If you haven’t already done so, consider assigning this responsibility to one specific person or team to build consistency. When people call and never get the same person twice, it can feel like your organization is disorganized or a revolving door. Use this touchpoint as a way to establish rapport—an important part of gaining support for your mission.
When visitors stop by your office, be sure they are properly greeted upon arrival. Never leave people standing at the front of your office alone, wondering what to do next. It is best to always be pleasant and kind. Hang up coats, offer a beverage and above all else, smile. The person who greets your guests is often the first step in relation development so make sure that you are strategizing to make the initial experience all that it can be.
The way you communicate is often just as important as what you communicate. All correspondence should have a consistent style and level of professionalism, which will reinforce your organization’s credibility. Set guidelines for everything; from email formats to letter templates, make every effort to standardize the image you’re putting out, and then educate staff on the importance of adhering to these standards.
It seems simple, but clean, professional images and clear, well-written text are crucial when it comes to marketing. Be sure to print or make copies from an original document—not a copy of a copy—for the best results. Avoid distorted logos or photos. Edit and proofread everything. When trying to convey a message, you want to capture the audience’s attention, establish credibility, and make it as easy as possible for them to take in the information and then take action. If marketing pieces are clean and clear, you’ll make a positive impression and communicate more effectively.
The small details count. When preparing mailings, invitations and fundraising requests, don’t overlook how they’re packaged. Check that stamps and labels are straight and centered, ensure that pages are aligned and neatly stapled, papers are folded with straight edges, and folders are filled with papers neatly aligned inside. Clean envelopes give your mailings the best chance to be received in good condition. Sloppy packaging won’t give off a good impression, but a nicely assembled piece of mail shows you care. These details show donors and contacts that your organization is a quality nonprofit worthy of their money and/or time.
In the nonprofit world, social media is an opportunity to up your game. Serve up engaging content, which shows your followers that you provide value. Set the tone with a consistent, professional brand voice, and proofread every post for clarity, grammar and typos. Use crisp and branded images when possible to share the story of your nonprofit’s impact. Being thoughtful in this space will go a long way in making a good impression.
Event Staffing and In-person Interactions
Face-to-face interactions can be a make-or-break moment for your organization’s image. During events, conferences and meetings, it’s vitally important to make people feel like a priority. Encourage your event staff and other team members to be welcoming, inviting and pleasant—because it matters. Those seemingly small gestures, like smiling, making eye contact, listening and answering questions, have a big impact on what people think of your nonprofit.
Every touchpoint is a reflection of your organization. To build trust and an ongoing relationship, these interactions have to make people feel important. Just think: each person your nonprofit comes in contact with could be (or become) a volunteer, donor, committee or board member, or someone you serve.
Even when you’re focused on tasks and to-dos, take a moment to put yourself in that other person’s shoes and view your organization through their eyes. How they see your organization—its image and its perceived impact—can affect whether they’ll choose to support your mission.
What is your nonprofit’s image saying?