My #14NTC Takeaway: Finding Your “Only”

Strangely, my biggest “aha!” moment at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference had nothing to do with technology.

In Kelley Stewart’s session, she led us through a useful thought exercise on identifying what makes your organization unique—crucial for showing donors why they should give to you.

Kelley pointed out that in her time at the American Cancer Society, she had a hard time explaining to donors why their Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (ACS) walk is different from the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer…or the Komen Race for the Cure…or any number of other walks and runs raising money for breast cancer research, treatment and awareness.

Shockingly, ACS’s surveys showed that 30% of their own walkers didn’t understand that the whole purpose of Making Strides was to raise funds for breast cancer!

Talk about a failure of communication…

So here are some questions Kelley suggested asking yourself and your colleagues about your nonprofit’s unique identity—your “only.

1)    Write down what you think makes your organization unique. It might be one thing, or it might be several things.

2)    Now, take a look at what you wrote down. Be completely honest with yourself: Does what you wrote also apply to any of your peer organizations? If not, awesome, you found your “only”!

But if what you wrote down can apply to another nonprofit, then you need to do some more soul searching. And it might be a painful process—no one wants to have their organization’s whole reason for existence called into question.

But if YOU don’t know why your organization is special, your potential donors sure don’t.

3)    Once you’ve found your “only,” think about how your organization is perceived by your donors and the public. Do THEY understand why you’re unique? Or do they think of you as just one of many indistinguishable groups working on the same issue?

4)    Then, it’s time to plan how to better show your “only” to your donors. Show them why a donation to you will accomplish things that just can’t happen anywhere else. Show them what the world would look like if you didn’t exist. Not a pretty picture, right?

There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. How are you going to make yourself stand out from the crowd?

The first step is to find your “only.”

– Posted by Julie Price


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