One of your key roles as a nonprofit leader is to get others excited about your organization. There are lots of ways to do that but they all rely on your communication. Whether it’s a one-on-one, in writing or standing at the podium, your words make magic happen (or not).
Improving what you say and how you say it will pay off in more volunteers, advocates and donations. It may not seem fair but the best causes don’t get the most money. To get people to pay attention to you what really matters is what you say. Your words are going to make the emotional connection that will inspire people to care. The more they care, the more they give.
Anytime you start speaking, be sure you are only saying enough to make the listeners curious enough to ask questions. That’s how a conversation starts. That’s your goal.
Let’s start practicing with these 5 Key Messages. You’ll want to test these out to see the reaction you get!
Key Message No. 1: Your Vision
Everyone loves a dream. When you talk about the vision you have for a better world, people listen. Your organization exists to create a better world in some way, whether it’s to improve your neighborhood or impact global warming. When you put that dream into simple words that anyone can understand, you’ve got an audience.
Keep the message simple. The best way to figure it out might be to think about what the world would be like if the work of your organization wasn’t needed anymore. That’s your Vision.
Key Message No. 2: Problem/Solution
You’ve identified a need. When you talk about the need, or problem, it’s easy for listeners to understand why your organization matters. It may be a problem they are well aware of, or one you are identifying for them.
To seal the deal, you should not only articulate the problem but make it clear that your organization, uniquely, is able to solve it. What you don’t need are the details. You’re still in the honeymoon phase, it’s too soon to talk about your mission or the work you do everyday. Keep it at a high level that is easy to understand and easy to agree with.
Key Message No. 3: I Love…
Use passionate language. You’re talking about what you love, say so. Starting a sentence with “I love…” changes the tone of a conversation. Who doesn’t want to hear about what you love? Your enthusiasm is contagious.
I’ve tried this out with nonprofit leaders and it works. There’s an instant difference when you switch to talking about your own passion for your work. It’s a very different tone than you would use if you were being “professional” and using stiffer language. If LOVE doesn’t roll off your tongue, try opening with, “I care deeply about…”
Key Message No. 4: I Need Your Help
A sincere request for help or advice is flattering. It’s a great way to start a conversation with someone you don’t know well. This can be as simple as asking for an opinion. Most people are happy to share their thoughts with you and they may, offer more than you expected (I mean this in a positive way although you do run the risk of them saying far more than you want to hear!).
Asking the right question takes some prep. If you know you are going to have the chance to engage someone you’d like to get to know, you can decide the question in advance. If not, have a few key questions ready to go. Remember in this, and all opening lines, you just want to get the conversation started. You are just looking to start a relationship.
Ask for help. Not for money, not for time. Just simply ask for advice or thoughts.
Key Message No. 5: Shh…Don’t Say a Word
There is no greater skill to learn than listening. When someone else is talking, especially when you are a bit uneasy, you try to figure out what to say next. That means you miss some of what they say and may come across as rushed or impatient. Instead, just listen.
Practice active listening. That means you continue to engage with eye contact and body language BUT keep your mouth shut. It’s not easy. I have to work really hard at it. But it is a very valuable skill. You will learn so much more and be held in higher regard if you are a good listener.
Nonprofit leaders need to be great communicators. These five key talking points will get you started.
Don’t neglect your speaking skills, what you say really matters to the success of your organization. If you fear public speaking, make a point of speaking to small groups, often. It will get easier. But it won’t go away, the need to communicate about your work is always present.