How to Clarify Nonprofit Key Messaging

5 min read
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Struggling to communicate your nonprofit’s mission and offerings to potential partners and donors? Do viewers of your website find it difficult to describe your organization and its focus? The issue isn't that your nonprofit does many things. The problem is that you must communicate your nonprofit key message.

In this article, let's explore why having a clear and concise key message is essential. We’ll also discuss creating a powerful key message that connects your offerings and resonates with your audience.

What Causes Audience Confusion?

You need a nonprofit key message that connects your offerings and resonates powerfully with potential partners and donors. Without it, your audience is confused. When confused, your audience either makes the wrong decision or doesn't decide at all, according to a study about The Cluttered Online Marketplace.

There are six reasons for audience confusion or consumer conversion

  1. Information Overload
  2. Product or Service Similarity
  3. Vague, Misleading, or Inadequate Information
  4. Choice Overload
  5. Inadequate Protective Legislation
  6. Product or Service Complexity and Standards. 

Nonprofit communication vagueness is the biggest culprit to audience confusion for nonprofits. If your message/story isn't crystal clear or feels a bit dodgy, you'll lose trust faster than you can say, "Oh." 

Examples of being Vague and Unclear:

  • You are creating a mission statement or any other descriptive text you only understand. 
  • You are using words with multiple meanings without providing context or definitions for how you define those words. The word Power means different things to different people.  
  • Not focusing on a particular audience or not focusing on what you do. 

All of this has to do with nonprofit branding that answers the question of what your org desires to be known for. You need to hold a place in your audience's mind. Occupying a space in their minds happens when you clearly explain your key message.

Discovering Your Key Message

The key message serves as a throughline for your organization to tie together your services and values. It is the core purpose and reason for your organization's existence.

  • Start with your mission statement: Your mission statement isn't just formal text; it's the heartbeat of your organization. How do each of our services reinforce the where, who, what, how, and why of your mission? 
  • Identify your core competencies: Are there specific problems your organization is ideal at solving? What are the things your org does well? What unique skills or expertise do you bring to the table? 
  • Highlight What Sets You Apart: Clearly define what makes your organization unique. This differentiation is critical to cutting through the noise. Remember, product or service similarity can lead to confusion.
  • Emphasize the benefits: Move beyond the 'what' of your services to the 'why.' How do they transform your clients' worlds? Understanding and articulating these benefits will make your message resonate more deeply.
  • Understand Your Audience: Dive deep into who you're talking to. What resonates with them? What do they care about? This understanding will shape your message.
  • Simplify, Simplify: Break down your mission into the simplest terms possible. It must be simplified if you can't explain it to a fifth-grader.

Real-Life Examples of Key Messages In Action

Echoing Green focuses on driving social change by finding and supporting social entrepreneurs. Their branding concerns bold leadership and innovative solutions, offering fellowships, seed-stage funding, and strategic support to help new leaders grow.

Key Message: Helping entrepreneurs solve social issues. 

Justice Defenders (formerly African Prisons Project) focuses on transforming justice systems by providing legal education, training, and services to those often most marginalized by these systems. By working within prisons and with communities, they aim to increase access to justice and change the narrative around incarceration and legal support.

Key Message: Changing the justice system. 

At BairStories, we amplify nonprofits fostering environmental justice through emotive storytelling. We bridge the gap between apathy and action, elevating empathy, community, and donations.

Key Message: Storytelling That Drives Change 

Although we offer film and video production, we decided to make our key messaging about storytelling. We want to be known for that in the minds of Nonprofit Communication Directors/Managers like yourself. 

Reinforcing Your Key Message With A Content Library

A content library is a digital storage space to store your media files, such as videos, images, and documents. Creating a public content library can vary from hosting your content on Vimeo, YouTube, or your website using Wistia's Channels.

Imagine, a go to place where your audience can be informed, entertained, and strengthen their relationship with your organization. Each one of your videos, podcasts, or written stories serves an advocacy building tool deepening your relationship. Here's why:

  • Narrative Tapestry: Think of your service offerings as a puzzle. Each video story or podcast episode you create is a piece, gradually revealing the big picture. This ongoing narrative brings your key message to life, making it tangible and relatable.
  • Episodic Approach: Shift from sporadic content creation to a continuous content stream. Much like episodes in a TV show or a podcast, a series of videos can captivate your audience, encouraging them to watch back-to-back and absorb the full scope of your impact.
  • Embrace a New Mindset: Transition from viewing video storytelling as an occasional requirement to a consistent, strategic approach. This shift will comprehensively share your nonprofit key message and keep your audience engaged with fresh perspectives.

A report about digital marketing reveals that people retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text. This statistic stat highlights the effectiveness of video storytelling in ensuring message retention and should be integrated when discussing the value of video content in your article​​.


The path to effectively communicating your key message may seem daunting. Still, it's about finding harmony in your services and presenting them with clarity and storytelling impact. By honing in on your mission, leveraging your strengths, and embracing the dynamic medium of video storytelling, you can create a narrative that informs and inspires.

Remember, it's not just about listing services; it's about weaving a story that builds trust, showcases expertise, and positions your organization as a beacon in the nonprofit communications world. Reinforcing your nonprofit key message throughout your narrative will help achieve this goal.

Overall, creating a library of video content can be a powerful tool for B2B nonprofits looking to showcase their many services and communicate the throughline of their work.

Learn more tips about telling your nonprofit story.

Tagged: Storytelling

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