The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Determine Your Nonprofit’s "Onliness"

You’ve got your eye on the year-end fundraising prize: Hitting your numbers. You’re even planning ahead and getting ready for fourth-quarter fundraising appeals during the summer months. (If you need a refresher, the five tips for kicking off your efforts.)

Now, it’s time to take your plans one step further by honing in on your content. And what, you may be asking yourself, is the foundation of your fundraising messaging? Your point of differentiation. What makes your nonprofit the only one of its kind? Taken from one of our new favorite books, Zag by Marty Neumeier, you need to determine your “onliness” (only-ness): “If you can’t say you’re the ‘only,’ go back and start over.”

Your unique value proposition will lead you down the path of effective messaging, and here’s a short exercise you and your staff/volunteers can do right away to figure it out:

  1. Take a journalistic approach to determining your “onliness.” Break it down with the good ol’ five W’s and an H: Who (are your constituents), What (is your category), Where (are your constituents located), When (do they need you), Why (are you important) and How (are you different)?
  2. Get an outside-insider’s opinion. Call up a volunteer and ask him/her why s/he’s involved with your organization and not Joe’s Other Advocacy Group down the street. You might be surprised what a little primary research will do for you: Your view of your differentiator might be way off from what your supporters see.
  3. Complete this phrase: “Our nonprofit is the only _____ that _____.” This gets right to the core of why your organization exists in the first place. What does your animal shelter do that no one else’s does? What niche is your nonprofit filling for human services? What populations are you serving that no one else does, and how are you doing it differently?

Take your “onliness” statement from Step 3 and use it moving forward to help you make decisions. Will that new program you’re considering implementing align with your statement? Does it really make sense for your organization and subsequent communications? How can you position your organization in the fall/year-end fundraising seasons?


Bonus Branding Tips:

Use what you’ve learned so far to find your brand’s sweet spot. Your unique value is one part of the branding puzzle. Katya Andresen (blogger and author of Robin Hood Marketing) presented tips for branding — you can access the slides and transcripts here. Examine the graphic below and think about the overlap space in the middle: It’s the intersection of what’s important to your audience, what your organization is good at and what you’re doing that no one else is. What are in your three circles? (You’ve already figured out the blue/bottom one now!) What’s your intersection?


Brand Diagram



Learn more about branding from our featured author: The Brand Gap (slide presentation) .



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About This Blog

Amanda Khoury
Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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