endPoverty is an amazing non-profit in Washington D.C. that supports microfinance institutions abroad. Last year, through Synergy Ministries, I led a team in Uganda for a two-week pro-bono consulting project for one of endPoverty’s partners in Uganda. Understanding our audience was one of the lessons our team learned to become more effective.
We had spent countless hours researching, building PowerPoint presentations, and creating project plans in the two months before departure. Yet once we arrived onsite, all of our plans were thrown out because they didn’t connect with our audience. The business school and corporately influenced tools, jargon, and processes didn’t resonate with our client; their way of business was focused more on culturing relationships. From that point, we aimed on building relationships with our client first and better understanding their perspectives.
Non-profits face similar challenges in understanding their audience. For your audience, whether you write a proposal, draft a talk, or create content for your website, enhance communication by thinking through three areas:
1. Think statistics – Look at data about your audience that includes their age, income, and even profession. Being aware of these differences will help you relate better with them; for example, talking to an inner-city teenager is different than talking to a suburban mom.
2. Think culture – Look at both their cultural and social backgrounds. Your audience belongs to cultural or social groups that influence their preferences and behaviors. For example, Republicans and Democrats have differing views on fiscal policy.
3. Think life – Our life experiences color our perspective; these experiences shape our beliefs, fears and connections. For instance, New Orleans residents who lost their homes because of Hurricane Katrina have a different outlook on disasters than New Yorkers who were impacted by the events of 9/11.
After thinking through statistics, culture, and life include these three themes in your messaging:
1. Humanity – Make your message relevant and connect to your supporters at a human level. Let your passion and emotion come out! If possible, use pictures, video, and stories. In a future post, I’ll show you how you can use an Empathy Map as a framework.
2. Urgency – Convey a feeling of importance and immediacy in the appeal. Why support your cause now? In a fundraising campaign, showing progress towards a goal will encourage your supporters to take action.
3. Impact – Give the reason why the fundraising campaign exists, and spend more time showing whom the donations impact. Also, show how much has been raised so far and the results so far.
One of the most important tools a non-profit has is its story. Use these six tips to build a better connection with your audience and make your message more meaningful.