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Why Nonprofits Need Strong Taglines
Nancy Schwartz

February, 2008

Introduction

In today's competitive marketing (including fundraising, of course) environment, nonprofit taglines must be strong enough to get attention and provoke questions.

Effective taglines complement an org's name, convey the unique value its delivers to its community and differentiates it from the competition? (Americorps' "Getting Things Done" is a great example of a tagline that works on all three fronts.)

But more often, nonprofit taglines are vague, ambiguous, over-reaching, too abstract or simply non-existent.

Unfortunately, there’s little available guidance for organizations striving to strengthen their taglines. That's why I'm making a special effort in 2008 to help nonprofit orgs craft better taglines.

Your Nonprofit's Name Alone Isn't Enough
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.

Nancy Schwartz has received over 1600 responses to her two-minute survey. The more people participate, the more we will learn, the better the data/guidance we’ll be able to provide to the sector. Schwartz will report back on responses (which she'll be glad to share) will highlight trends, best practices and tips. All survey respondents (who request it) will receive a copy. You’ll find the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=zjXNjEU9fh1wCcHCZelFYQ_3d_3d

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. Take a look at my article "4 Steps to Creating a Strong Nonprofit Brand" for more info.

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.

© 2002-2007 Nancy E. Schwartz. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing and communications. Subscribe to her free e-newsletter "Getting Attention", (http://www.nancyschwartz.com/getting_attention.html) and read her blog at http://www.gettingattention.org for more insights, ideas and great tips on attracting the attention your organization deserves.

In addition, as President of Nancy Schwartz & Company (www.nancyschwartz.com), 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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