Narrow Your Messaging Focus for Success

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Nonprofits are complex organizations that usually do work across several program areas, and often have a hard time telling their complicated story. We talk to them about how to streamline their messaging at events and focus on one area of impact to capitalize on their fundraising potential.


Speakers Ted Wheeler, Cheryl Strayed, Deborah Steinkopf and Bradley Angle Board Member Harlan Barcus

This year Bradley Angle, a domestic violence organization, took the opportunity of its Wild Lunch to focus on one of their service areas: economic empowerment. This is a crucial piece for survivors of domestic violence to be able to move into more stable and successful lives. They have a central belief that cycles of violence and poverty can be broken, and they work to do that through financial education, job placement and matched savings accounts. As a result of their work they were selected as the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse recipient for the region, and the Wild Lunch strategically coincided with the end of their Purple Purse Campaign.

Everyone who spoke from the stage tapped into the idea of economic empowerment and the throughline not only made for a coherent narrative, it simplified the story of their programs in a way that everyone in the room could track without becoming too mired in their list of service offerings.

Raphael House, another domestic violence organization, also took the opportunity at their Destinations dinner and auction to focus on one area of their work instead of trying to cram messaging for everything they do into the program. As an organization they believe that the cycle of violence can be broken through prevention and education. And, in fact, the programs and energy they put here makes them unique among domestic violence organizations.


Education Coordinator Megan Kovacs

They honed in on this thread and used it to drive their event program. It framed all of their speakers as well as their special appeal video. They had their education coordinator on stage as a speaker and the momentum of her story really set a good launch for the auction and appeal that followed. They are the only agency with a full-time coordinator dedicated to education, and her work has built a program with statewide influence.

The special appeal video focused on the Coaching Boys into Men project that Raphael House helped launch at a local school. It is designed to to talk to young men early about how to be advocates, how to treat the women in their lives with respect, and how to interrupt violent and disrespectful behavior before it becomes ingrained. It was so successful that the district launched it in all of its high schools.

Each piece of the prevention story told throughout the event built a strong case for the organization as a leader, innovator and effective partner for prevention and education not only in Portland, but throughout the state.

Audiences want to engage with your work. It’s why they’ve come to your event. Take a look at your most pressing and exciting work and focus there. By doing this with some depth at your event, you will more fully connect the audience to your mission. The audience understands that this is one of many programs you offer, and by looking at it in more detail, they will get to see the uniqueness and expertise of your organization in full effect.


Photos by Andie Petkus


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