Marketing for Nonprofits Part 3 - The Importance of Voice by Hillary Weeks


If you’ve been with us so far, you know that the first steps in marketing for your nonprofit are figuring out your audience and setting goals for your organization.

Now that you have these down, it’s time to start thinking about how to communicate your message. What you say is as important as how you say it. Being consistent with the type of language and words you use makes it easier to get your point across.

What is Voice?

When we talk about voice in your writing, there are two things to consider:

1. The words you choose depend on your audience.

You’re going to use different terms in an email for your board members than one for your volunteers.

Example — Underserved populations vs. People in our community who need our help

2. Your tone, or how your words are put together, impacts your message.

When speaking, we pay attention to tone of voice. The same words can mean something completely different depending on how they’re being said. We all know the difference between a “No!” shouted in anger and one muttered after you’ve dropped mustard down a brand new shirt.

The character of your organization is expressed through things like sentence length, contractions, punctuation, and vocabulary choice. These all combine to create a message that can sound casual or formal, excited or factual, funny or serious.

Example — There was an impressive turnout for last week’s fundraiser. vs. We want to celebrate all of the smiling faces that came out to support us last week!

Why Voice Matters

If you don’t have a coherent voice through your communications, things can get pretty messy. There’s always the chance of confusing your reader, or even upsetting them. This is especially true when dealing with multiple audiences. Using the right words for each group is essential.

You want your audience to know what to expect when they hear from you. It makes your message stronger and more focused, and it helps to create the kind of long-term relationships you need for a successful nonprofit.

It’s also a way to differentiate yourself, especially if other people in your field use the same key words over and over again. By stressing words and phrases that are underused, it’s much easier to have a message that stands out.

Creating a Voice Strategy

What can you do to create a more consistent tone in your writing? For many organizations, a voice style guide can give your team a strategy for creating messages with maximum impact.

When developing a brand guide, consider these things:

  • Who is your audience? It’s a recurring question, but an important one. If you have different stakeholders, create a document for each one.

  • Within your audience, what are their expectations? What words would resonate with them? What would turn them off from working with you?

  • Explore the values of your organization. If you’re a green charity run by hipsters you’re going to have a different tone than a corporate entity. You’ll probably want to stay away from sounding cold and professional, unless that’s what your audience wants.

  • Look through existing content and evaluate it for vocabulary and tone. Write some sample content using your guidelines and see how they compare.

Now that you have a better idea of how to create a uniform message across your brand and your marketing, make sure to document the details and the process. You can find templates online to save you time and help generate ideas for your guide.

Keep your eyes out for next month when we’ll be discussing how to create more value in your marketing.

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