Thanks to promotional efforts, people can recognize a nonprofit organization. However, sometimes due to unclear messaging they don’t fully know or understand the full spectrum of programs it offers. The message can especially become blurred if the organization’s name does not match its cause. Does that mean you need to change your name in order to be more relevant? I don’t think so.
The other night I participated in an event that addressed bullying. It consisted of viewing the documentary Bully followed by a discussion with moviegoers. The organization that facilitated the event has a full array of resources and with programs to address the insidious problem of bullying in the schools – as well as before and after, i.e., buses, playgrounds, etc. The term “bullying” however, is not in its name, tagline or any other first line explanation. But, their overall mission is closely identified with the term “justice.” Should this organization rename/re-brand itself to be more readily identified with their program offering? Although I see the value of re-branding as evidenced by other projects I am involved in, I believe there are effective ways to get your cause out to the masses.
Picture the community as your destination and its variety of networks – affinity groups, service clubs, local businesses, book clubs, mom’s groups, little league, etc. – as the streets. Then take a “creative road trip.” Don’t just take go for the shortest route. Map out a variety of scenic roadways so you can send your message out over many paths. I have always believed that when you have a message and a messenger (leader/executive director) you have great opportunity to engage people with compelling stories of what you do. The movie theater was a terrific example of an audience that was “ripened” by learning about what this organization has been doing to address this problem. We reached out to groups across the spectrum. The post movie discussion on possible solutions identified how the nonprofit organization’s programs can begin to help. WE BECAME OUR CAUSE without even discussing the name. The theater became a place marker for our program taking front and center stage. Granted, on an exceptionally hot day the movie theater was the place to be. But a good chunk of the audience stayed way beyond the end of the movie to dialogue and when the theater closed, the discussion moved out on to the street. The conversation was open and participants were stewarded from the event to the organization.
The most important, and most challenging piece to visibility is the follow-up. To draw again from the driving concept, think two way street. Get contact information so you can provide information on your programs and services. Adhere to what I call the Three Day Follow-Up Rule, which you can think of as a round trip, and engage them again! It can be done. And in this case study it was!