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5 communications tips for small NGOs to attract supporters

There are over 160,000 registered charities and NGOs in the UK, according to the House of Commons Library. Getting noticed by potential supporters and donors is increasingly difficult.

It’s hard to drum up interest for your organisation just by the work you do. This isn’t obviously the most important element of running an NGO, but relying on supporters, volunteers and donors means you have to get noticed.

By defining or reviewing your key messaging and unique selling points (USP), you can stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips.

1. Define your USP

With so many NGOs, it’s difficult for the general public to find a cause that they are willing to give up their time and money for. So it’s important for your organisation to internally define exactly what it is that makes you special.

What do you do differently from everyone else? Is the way you run your NGO different from the norm? Have you had success where others have failed? If you can define what makes you unique, you can sell yourself to potential supporters on being apart from the crowd.

Send a Cow started off as an elegant solution to EU quotas. They now do so much more than donating livestock, but that USP is so recognisable they have become a household name despite being a smaller organisation.

2. Condense who you are into a single strapline

With such a crowded community, you likely will only have a few moments to hook potential supporters in to your cause. That’s why a well thought out strapline can be crucial. This is much easier said than done, as you are summarising a complex network of activities and a call to action (CTA) into a simple succinct sentence.

There are some great examples out there. Red Cross’s “refusing to ignore people in crisis” identifies who they help and is a rallying call. War Child’s is simple, but doesn’t hide from the vulnerability of the people they are helping with “a world where no child’s life is torn apart by war”. Both these examples use strong language to evoke emotion, with the use of words like “refusing” and “torn apart”.

If you come up with a strong strapline, you can gain supporters with a single sentence. Make sure you get it right.

3. Keep your descriptions simple

Now you’ve identified your USP and grabbed your audience’s attention with your strapline, you now have to give more insight into how your NGO operates, and where and how you spend donor’s money. There are lots of ways to present this, like bullet points or through aims and ambitions, but the most important thing to remember is to keep it simple.

Most potential supporters aren’t going to know their DfIDs from their SDGs, so use plain English. Keep explanations succinct and relatable, and ensure that you are showing exactly where you’re spending money. This will help build trust with your audience. Wateraid have an exact breakdown of every pound they spend.

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Changing your brand doesn’t have to cost thousands. By picking key colours and fonts, you can make your website and communications look unique without having to worry about spending donor money on consultants.

If you already have a logo, then basing your colour scheme on this will help your branding become more identifiable for the user. And there are thousands of fonts to choose from.

Take plenty of time deciding which one, as this is what most of your audience will see first. It’s also advisable to use a Microsoft office font if you don’t have money to spend on licensing.

5. Always show who you’re helping

Putting a face, or faces, to the work you’re doing gives your NGO life. It shows not just that you mean well, but you get results and you are helping change the world. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a photo of a person, it could be a well, a forest or a reef. It could be a series of statistics. Either way, visual representation of what you’re doing will help the audience identify with your work.

Look at almost any homepage for an NGO and you will see a photo of someone or something the organisation has helped at the top of their website. After all, this is the most important thing your organisation does. By demonstrating it to potential supporters, you invite them into your NGO.