Pop quiz in 3, 2, 1… What are your organization’s values?

Could you name them without looking?

At April’s #NPMC Twitter chat (see the chat transcript), we talked about leveraging nonprofit values in our marketing communications.

We’re generally good at bringing our vision and mission statements to life. We use them at the start of volunteer meetings, on t-shirts and in media interviews. Bringing our values to life seems more tricky. But, it doesn’t need to be.

In the conversation-starting post we used to introduce the chat topic, I described the importance of values to communicators. Values help create our nonprofit’s identity, humanize our brand, articulate what we stand for and guide the way we act. Our values can help us to convey emotion and demonstrate our ethics and conviction.

Following up on the chat and previous post…

Here are nine ways to leverage your nonprofit’s values in your marketing communications:

Defining and managing your brand

Your values are an integral part of your nonprofit’s overall brand so it stands to reason they should be incorporated into the elements that define and manage that brand. 

  1. Extend your values into the other humanizing elements of your brand such as Brand Personality and Brand Voice.
  2. Factor in your values in the decision-making criteria you use when considering hiring, granting, spokespeople, vendors, sponsors etc. Would the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization still have teamed up with KFC for its Buckets for a Cure cause marketing campaign if the decision was solely based on its values?
  3. Use your values to frame and support your decisions when dealing with a reputation management issue or organizational crisis.

Guiding how you work with people

Values inform the behaviours we expect of ourselves and others. Therefore, our values should be clearly communicated and consistently applied when we’re dealing with people.

  1. Build policies, such as a Code of Conduct and Social Media Policy, from your values to describe the specific behaviours that properly represent them.
  2. Include questions in job interviews and performance appraisals that can probe the person’s own values to see if s/he’s a good fit for your nonprofit. Google calls this looking for the person’s Googleyness to see if the candidate’s traits match Google’s values and culture.
  3. Base some of the criteria for your recognition of sponsors, volunteers and staff on your values to reinforce the ethics and behaviour you’re trying to foster.

Inspiring your content creation

By their very nature, values are “feeling” words”. Think “passion” or ”justice”. We can draw from them to add emotion and imagery to the material we create.

  1. Include your values in your corporate materials such as your website, annual report and orientation presentations.
  2. Infuse the themes and concepts of your values (not necessarily verbatim) into your writing, such as in Chair’s messages and speeches.
  3. Chose story subjects, whether they’re people, programs or sponsors, that best illustrate and represent your values.

A couple of things to consider when leveraging your values

If it’s a struggle maybe there’s trouble

If you’re struggling to make your values fit within your marketing communications then there may be a problem with the values themselves. If they don’t ring true or you’re finding them tough to translate into “real life” then (at the risk of sending your Board into a tizzy) you may need to revisit them to see why there’s a disconnect.

Ignoring your values can be risky

Once you’ve said what you stand for, you will be held to it. When an organization is in crisis, one of the first things people do is look at its stated values. Think of how Volkswagen was called out after its rigged emissions controversy. So, just be sure your nonprofit is ready to walk its talk.

Values are an integral element of every organization and they’re a powerful and practical tool to add inspiration and accountability to your marketing communications. For your next project, consider your values and how they can add emotion and conviction to your nonprofit’s brand, people and content.

Feeling all fired up to start using your values? Read this fantastic Nonprofits With Balls post for more ideas.

Do you have a good example of leveraging your values in marketing communications? Please comment below!

Nathalie Noël

Nathalie Noël

Brand & Strategy Coach / Communications Specialist at Nathalie Noël
Nathalie Noël has worked in communications and marketing for close to 20 years. She is The Law Foundation of Ontario’s communications specialist and she does freelance consulting in the areas of brand development and communications strategy. In both her roles, Nathalie aims to bring focus, clarity, and confidence to good people’s good work.
Nathalie Noël
Nathalie Noël