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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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Why Nonprofits Need Strong Taglines
Nancy Schwartz

September, 2009

Your Nonprofit's Name Alone Isn't Enough

(Jackie Note - Please vote for's tagline in the Tagline Competition - the deadline is September 30, 2009 - NEXT WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT MIDNIGHT.

Vote for our tagline "Building Community Deep in the hearts of Texans" at )

You've got to explain in a few words what your nonprofit does, and why it's valuable. That's the job of the tagline.

Many organizations expect their names to broadcast what it is they do. Trouble is, it just doesn't happen that way very often. One reason why is that many nonprofit names sound alike. Another is that audiences frequently confuse the work of organizations focused on the same issues – think Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Where Your Tagline Fits In

The tagline is one of the four vital components of your branding portfolio, along with your nonprofit's logo, overall graphic look and feel, and positioning statement.

Remember that the tagline should be such a natural outgrowth of your organization's positioning statement (the one or two sentences you'd use to reply to someone asking what the organization does) so that the two are inextricably linked. A great tagline differentiates you from your competitors while expressing your organization's personality and adding consistency to your marketing and communications.

The bonus? Your tagline will help to align internal understanding of your organization's direction and goals.

But beware communicators. The absence of a tagline – or the use of an ineffective one – will put your nonprofit at a competitive disadvantage in funding, building your staff and volunteer base, and increasing use of your programs and products.

Some Great Nonprofit Examples

Here are a couple of high-impact nonprofit taglines:
  • "Change Your Life for Good"
    – City University of New York
This tagline promises that you'll transform your life, and luck, through enrolling at CUNY. Who wouldn't want to know more?
  • "Finding the ways that work"
    – Environmental Defense
Environmental Defense's name couldn't be any clearer. So they crafted a tagline that conveys what's unique about how they do it – innovation and persistence.

Taglines that Don't Work

You can also learn a lot from taglines that fall flat:
  • "Defending Human Rights Worldwide"
    – Human Rights Watch
Don't waste your tagline text repeating what's in your name (figuratively or literally, as in this example). Unfortunately, this tagline tells us nothing more than the name does.

Remember...your tagline is a terrible thing to waste.

Six Keys to a Powerful Tagline
  • Examine other organizations' (especially your competitors') taglines to see what makes them work. Then apply that learning to the creation of your tagline.
  • Your tagline must be simple, concise, clear, understandable and convey your marketing message.
  • Make sure your tagline can be understood by a multi-cultural or international audience, if you have one. Cultural differences are critical here.
  • Include words or phrases that connect with your logo, if possible. Example: Own a piece of the rock for Prudential Insurance, which has a rock logo.
  • Use active verbs. As always, they'll engage your audiences.
  • Hold your course. Once you create a tagline, stick with it. Don't change it just because you're tired of it. Some of the most well known taglines have been used for years.

About the Author
Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing and communications. As President of Nancy Schwartz & Company (, Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to organizations as varied as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Center for Asian American Media, and Wake County (NC) Health Services.

NOTE: You're welcome to "reprint" this article online as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the copyright and "about the author" info at the end), and you send a copy of your reprint. 


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