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Tough times? A compelling message brings opportunities
By Alix Becker

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By Alix Becker

Many nonprofits are facing difficult times. Foundation endowment values are falling, contributions declining, and governmental funding diminishing. All of this has an immediate effect on operating budgets, presenting significant challenges to nonprofit leaders.

When times were good donors gave to a variety of nonprofits, but today’s realities are forcing new choices. Those donors who choose to continue their current levels of giving are selecting their beneficiaries carefully, whittling down their grants and donations to those organizations they care most about and have a personal connection with.

Although it’s tempting to reduce costs by slashing marketing budgets and eliminating investment in communications and outreach, nonprofits with staying power will focus on connecting with their audiences in new and powerful ways. There is, in fact, opportunity in the perspective and discipline that can come from this moment.

Successful nonprofits will reframe the challenges of the new economy to their advantage. They will look at the current environment and see opportunity -- to better understand a changing environment of giving, to offer new value to new audiences, to clarify and strengthen their message, and to create an emotional connection with their donors and members.

They will do this while staying true to who they are, conveying what is strong and authentic about their organization. They will convey longevity, determination, and resilience. They will be clear and they will be consistent, centering the audience and donor experience around the core idea that is at the heart of their organization -- their mission. And they will focus and drive every communications opportunity toward that core idea with a discipline that maximizes their return on investment in marketing and communications.

It is tempting in these times to seek new audiences and new donors, to focus messaging on the need for funding, to tell a story of dire consequences. This is where many have failed. Nonprofits who want to continue to have meaning in today’s new world, will not join the broad cry of pain that will ripple through this year’s wave of donor letters. Rather, they will continue to reach out to their donor base with a clear and differentiated message about the value of their organization, its work and its results.

From social services to the arts, nonprofits have always played an important role in our society. As we face difficult economic times, their role is even more important. By conveying the critical nature of their work and by connecting their audiences ever closer to their value in making that work happen, nonprofits will not only prevail in these challenging times, they may even find a new path to future successes.

Alix Becker is a NewLevel Group consultant specializing in brand strategy, consumer research, marketing, and design for businesses and nonprofits.

She can be reached at 707-255-5555 x114 or

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