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Appealing to the "hero", "heart" and "head" in nonprofit communications

Appealing to the "hero", "heart" and "head" in nonprofit communications

My first job out of college was working as the Communications and Awareness Manager for a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. So naturally, I was thrilled when the opportunity arose for me to join a creative team in relaunching the website for RISEN International.

RISEN International is a creative startup nonprofit working in Honduras to equip and inspire women and children through quality nutrition and education. They had previously done a soft launch on their website but needed to improve its messaging to engage donors, attract partners and communicate their mission. I was the lead copywriter on the project and worked alongside a team of designers to pull together the website.

Creating online messaging for a nonprofit involves strategy. Below are four questions to keep in mind when writing for nonprofit:

Who is the “hero”?

There are two “heroes” in the nonprofit’s story: 1.) the people they are serving and 2.) the people supporting the nonprofit. In marketing terms, this is identifying your “audience.” You have to drill down and understand who they are in order to communicate the mission of the nonprofit effectively. Never lose sight of the heroes. No matter how pretty the message may sound, if it doesn’t speak true to those it’s for, then you need to refocus.

What is the hero thinking?

I collaborated with RISEN International founder, Natalie Zapata, to understand the psyche and struggles of the women and children they serve. As a writer, you can’t assume this part of the story. I absorbed a lot of research about Honduras through statistics and reports from international agencies. This research component is critical. However, it was the ongoing conversations I had with Natalie and reviewing testimonials that were paramount to the effectiveness of the message.

How can I appeal to the heartstrings and the head?

Website visitors need to feel an emotional connection with the nonprofit’s cause. For RISEN International, this was about explaining the “suffer cycle” many Honduran women and children experience daily. Then, for the more factual type visitor, we backed up the emotional stories with well-researched facts and figures from credible sources. A combination of both the “heart” (emotional story of the experience) and the “head” (the facts of the epidemic) is key to appealing to both.

How can I inspire support?

Donations are vital to nonprofit operations and mission fulfillment but don’t underestimate the power of other means of support. Be creative and present multiple ideas, like social media sharing, hosting fundraisers and awareness events, blogging, and much more. By inviting people to be a part of the mission in a variety of ways, you are creating multiple opportunities for participation in areas they are passionate about the most. It positions the nonprofit as interactive and caring toward supporters, and helps keep it in the donor’s thoughts when they are ready to give a monetary donation in the future.

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