Every nonprofit organization I’ve worked with – in some way, shape or form – has values. They may be called Value Statements, Guiding Principles or Approach.

Values may be a handful of characteristics, a paragraph or two or a paragraph for each value. Regardless of the name or format, they all have the same purpose: to articulate the core, uncompromising ethics and beliefs that govern the organization’s decisions and actions.

Nonprofits spend a lot of time and effort developing values. Once we’re done, we post them on our websites and tuck them in our annual reports. And then, many of us forget about them and get on with the work of building our organization’s profile and reputation. The thing is, when we move on, we’re leaving a valuable (terrible pun intended) tool behind.

Two ways values can support our communications

As communicators, values can help us in two ways. We can leverage them to convey emotion and to demonstrate our nonprofit’s conviction.

1. Values add emotion

By their very nature, our values are emotional. They’re “feeling words”. Passion, joy, empathy, justice. We can pull plenty of emotional language and imagery from them to inspire our audiences and tell our stories.

It’s even easier when our value characteristics are flushed out. For example, being able to jump off the theme of “empathy” is good. Having a clearer picture of what empathy means to the organization is even better. Here’s an example from my time at United Way of London & Middlesex:

“Empathy: We believe the root of all action for change is the ability to see and feel ourselves in the situations of others. We believe all people and all communities have the potential to overcome challenge. We treat people with dignity, fairness and equality. We understand and live the correlation between improving the life of one to improve the lives of all”.

2. Values demonstrate conviction

Values can be perceived as “just warm and fuzzy”. In reality, if you’re truly committed to your values, these “warm and fuzzy” words are actually defining your organization’s ethics and setting the standards by which to govern your decisions and actions. (Pretty important stuff to communicators who are often, whether in the job description or not, the conscience of our organization’s brand.)

When you’re working on a piece to prove your accountability or to compel people to stand behind your organization, you shouldn’t need to re-create the wheel. Your values define your integrity. As communicators, our job is to demonstrate this by creating content that backs up what we say we stand for.

Using your values in your work

Here are three examples of how you can leverage your values to strengthen your communications and marketing:

  • Extend your values into other elements that define and humanize your organization’s brand such as personality and voice.
  • Incorporate your values into your day-to-day content such as orientation materials, Chair’s messages and speeches.
  • Incorporate your values into your policies, especially your social media policy. Social media is a very public representation of your brand that interacts with all kinds of people. Your social media team and ambassadors should have a very clear idea of how your values translate to the behaviour you expect of them.

Are you effectively leveraging your values?

Ask yourself:

  • Where and how are your values communicated?
  • How do you “live” your values in your nonprofit?
  • How can your values support your marketing communications activities?
  • How often do you personally consult/reflect on your nonprofit’s values?
  • Have you ever referred to your nonprofit’s values to help you make a decision?
  • What benefits do your values bring to your projects?

Let’s discuss using our values in our communications at #NPMC chat!

How are you using your nonprofit’s values to strengthen your communications and marketing? Do you see benefits? Do your values help you make decisions of things to do, or not to do?

Join the conversation! Share your ideas during the next #NPMC Twitter chat on Thursday, April 28 at 1:00pm ET. Follow the #NPMC hashtag on Twitter.

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