How To Lift A Cause-Based Message Above The Tweetstorms And Mattress Ads This Giving Season

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, November 26, 2019

From Congress to Casper and everything in between, today’s media ecosystem feels like an all-out war for increasingly fleeting moments of our attention. And it leaves us all feeling a little beleaguered.  

Too often lost amid this are the messages that matter. Chiefly, those that belong to nonprofits, advocacy organizations, and mission-driven folks of all stripes.  

And, never is there a harder time for those organizations to stand out than during the busy, noisy holiday season. Paradoxically, with milestones like Giving Tuesday upon us, for many it’s also the most important time to connect with constituents, donors, volunteers, and others.  

What are purpose-driven communicators to do? Breaking through the messaging malaise isn’t easy. But, following these tips will help. 

Be Remarkably Different

I know, I know, this sounds like marketing listicle 101. Yet, far too often, cause appeals are virtually indistinguishable from one another. They are paint-by-numbers exercises in which an image that captures the dire need for the cause — from an endangered child to a starving polar bear — is juxtaposed against pithy text, a big, bright donate button, and the organization’s logo.



We get so wrapped up in checking the boxes of our digital world, we tend to lose sight of the most fundamental marketing creed of them all: to differentiate ourselves. Beneath all the click and conversion metrics, brand still matters. And we’ve never had more robust opportunities to bring our brands to life.  

Diversify Your Storytelling

The only time many constituents experience your brand is when you’re asking for money. But successful communicators know that the groundwork for donation (or most any conversion action) is laid through brand interactions over time.

With increasingly democratized content-creation tools and paid media platforms (beyond just Facebook; podcasts, digital audio, streaming TV, and the like), you’ll be surprised to discover how a brand relationship built over time “lifts all boats” when it comes to end-of-year donations.

Repeat Yourself

Don’t be afraid to hammer home key messages. Not only does this give you a better chance of cutting through the clutter, but, as Ann Richards instilled in Cecile, “it's only when you are completely sick of saying something that someone else has finally heard it.” 

You could throw a dart and hit virtually any cause-based vertical to find ample evidence of organizations that exist in the public imagination chiefly through indistinguishable, monolithic messages. Those that thrive have a visual presence that break category molds and grab attention. It’s the organizations that embrace data-driven visual storytelling that win.

With the stakes high across sectors, telling a cause’s story in ways that capture attention and break tired conventions is not a nice-to-have this Giving Season. It’s mission critical.

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