The word is out. You’ve looked at other faith-based organizations and it seems like everyone is doing it right. Everyone is connecting to donors with well-written appeal letters. Everyone is claiming that their donors are heroes, thanking them profusely for their contribution, praising them for the huge difference they make, and giving them all the credit for the impact of the organization.

That impact could be in helping the lives of underserved people or in making Catholic education accessible for less fortunate kids or in providing much needed financial care for retired religious. There are many faith-based organizations vying for the same donation dollars you are.

Fundraising software makes it easy to track donations, new donors, repeat donors and pledges. Messaging and branding are not as easily measured. It is more difficult to figure out how people feel about your organization. But feelings do impact your donors and their decision making.

So how does your organization stand out from the crowd? How do you get heard? How do you differentiate yourself? Bottom line—it’s all about messaging and branding that evokes emotion in your donors. Is your message clear, or is it muddled? Does your branding reflect your core values and align with your mission? What gives your organization passion and energy?

In the hurry and scurry of your workdays, are you ignoring the key marketing and fundraising fundamentals that will encourage donors to feel engaged in your organization? Invest the time and money it takes to do it right. The following building blocks, done carefully and completely, will be well worth your effort and financial investment.

1. Message: Be specific when describing what your organization does and for whom. What problem(s) are you addressing or working to solve? Who are you trying to help? Is this need for your specific community, the country, or the world? Your message needs to be carried consistently in all printed materials, on your website and in social media.

Do you have a messaging platform? A messaging platform contains your organization’s name, tagline, mission, vision, audience and values. Take time to review them and put your platform in writing. The process forces you to clarify your thoughts and keeps everyone in your organization on the same page.

Also, be passionate about your message. Show some excitement for your issues and cause. Your commitment will inspire your donors. There is nothing more contagious than sincere enthusiasm!


2. Branding: Your brand voice is built from many things, not simply your logo. It is carried in your printed materials, website, social media and, last but not least, your people and your service. Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon says, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.” You can’t control what others think about your organization, but you can try to influence them to think one thing or another. And know that branding happens whether you plan for it or not. Poorly executed design will ‘brand’ your organization. Every organization needs to pay thoughtful attention to their branding.


3. Professional look and feel: Having a polished look and feel can cost money if there is no one on staff able to accomplish this. Too many nonprofits and faith-based organizations do not allocate money in this area because they are already operating on a tight budget and are pressed to keep administrative costs low. In spite of that reality, smart marketing demands that an organization put its best foot forward. Your look and feel needs to be engaging and attractive, but not slick, with well-crafted words to tell your story across all channels.


4. Website: You’ve heard this before — your website is a critical tool in your marketing and fundraising arsenal. It’s the first place potential supporters and donors will go when they want to find out more about what you do. And since we now view data on our smartphones more often than a desktop, your website must be responsive so it displays well on mobile devices.


5. Online presence: You website is only one part of your online presence. There are many online entry points including social media channels, blog articles, news articles, and more. Make sure your brand voice is consistent across all these outlets. Each one is an opportunity to tell your story in a unique way. You don’t need to use all of them, but consider how you could engage with one facet of your donors via pictures on Instagram, and another facet via Facebook Advertising. The demographics of your donors will inform the media channels that make the most sense for your organization. Bottom line: don’t use all of them, or ignore them all, either! Be strategic about making your online presence branded and suited to your audience.

We are all expected to do more and more with scarce resources these days. But the visual branding and messaging of your organization is foundational. Working through the branding development process will help you take an honest look at how you are perceived, clarify your organization’s unique value and provide a powerful set of marketing tools to help you tell your story. Over time, these proven marketing basics not only influence the dollars and donors you attract, but are the foundation for achieving your mission.