What Do We Say Now? 5 Tips for Nonprofit Messaging in the Trump Era

By Kathy Swayze

March 14, 2017

At Impact, we talk to a lot of nonprofit folks about messaging. And for many of our clients, things have been a little challenging since last November. Sure, there are the nonprofits like ACLU (who we’re proud to partner with), Greenpeace, and Planned Parenthood whose messaging has been crystal clear and can be summed up in one word: RESIST.

But the vast majority of nonprofits we work with are nonpartisan. While many have donor bases that are quite liberal, the organization itself cannot get overtly political.

Public radio promises fair and unbiased journalism. Health charities acknowledge that disease does not discriminate. And arts organizations, schools, hospitals, women’s groups and children’s organizations all have missions that transcend political party. But that doesn’t mean that their missions are not impacted.

In a Feb 7 blog post, Ally Dommu of Big Duck noted, “Staying silent on current events that impact your communities may not be an option either. You might be perceived as out of touch, miss an opportunity to make a powerful statement about what you stand for, or leverage this moment for fundraising.”

If you find yourself asking, how do we motivate our donors in this current political environment without getting “too political,” we offer the following tips.

  1. Start with your mission. If the actions of the administration will harm your mission and those you serve, say so and tell donors what you are doing about it. Or, if you can’t refer directly to administration actions, refer to the “political climate” or “a challenging time for our nation.” Your donors are smart. They will know what you mean.
  2. Focus on specific policies or actions. AARP did this masterfully last week when they came out against the healthcare bill. They stated clearly, “AARP opposes this legislation,” but also added, “[We stand] ready to work with both parties on legislation that puts Americans first.”
  3. If your organization is entirely non-political, consider using the competition angle. “At a time when many people are diverting donations to political fights, YOUR support of our work is especially important.”
  4. Reference the actions of the Trump administration without referring to them directly. For example, “At a time when facts seem underrated, our commitment to unbiased, fact-based journalism has never mattered more.”
  5. And finally, if this is a really hard time for your cause and your donors are feeling discouraged, remind them that this is a long-term struggle. As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” All of us must keep doing our part to bend it.

Please reach out and let us know how your nonprofit is telling its story in this changing environment.

— Posted by Kathy Swayze. Image courtesy of Greenpeace.

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