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Setting Your Organization Apart From the Pack

Production Solutions

A key question to ask yourself: What does my organization do better than anyone else?

Knowing this answer is critical for both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations.

For example, one of the first questions I have always asked a new client is: “When you think about all of the other organizations working toward a similar mission as yours, or just the general daily competition for nonprofit dollars, what is the reason a donor can feel good about choosing your organization as the #1 place for their charitable funds?”

One of the best marketing professionals I know, Eric Johnson, recommended a great book to me a few years ago on this subject: Why Johnny Can’t Brand: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea by Bill Schley and Carl Nichols, Jr. In this book, the authors hypothesize that only 10% of companies have a strong brand position. The authors bring forth the concept of the Dominant Selling Idea (DSI) — the one unique offering that sets your brand apart from your competition.

This applies to nonprofits as well, and it’s worth another look at how you are answering this key question for your donors about what your organization is doing best.

Some key guidelines in defining your DSI:

  • Your DSI needs to be specific, simple, and important.
    •  Specific – what can donors rally around that separates you from the pack?
    • Simple – donors should be able to see it clearly throughout your messaging and it should come to mind whenever they think of your organization – clarity is key.
    • Important – the differentiator needs to matter so that it helps donors as they make their decision regarding philanthropic support.
  • When defining your DSI, ask yourself if you could take out the name of your organization and insert the name of another organization and have it still be a true statement. If you can, then you haven’t yet gotten down to what makes you unique.
  • Typically, your DSI is right in front of your nose. You likely just haven’t claimed or highlighted it consistently!

One of the loudest laughs I’ve ever heard at a conference was when the great Larry May said “The donor is extremely casual in this relationship and is dating other people.” I loved this line so much that I wrote it down and saved it.

If we consider this as we think about the DSI, bringing your true unique specialty to the relationship allows the donors that will be fiercely loyal to your mission to identify themselves and let the casual daters look elsewhere. We can’t be all things to all people in any aspect of our lives, and that goes for business and fundraising as well! Aligning your messaging with your DSI is critical to increasing acquisition response rates, long term donor loyalty, and therefore overall revenue.

The team at PS|PS Digital is honored to support the production and digital execution for more than 100 nonprofit organizations and 15 agency partners. Our Strategy & Trends department has vision into 400 million annual mailings, where we advise on industry trends and message ideas every day to help clients and agency partners refine and differentiate themselves to improve their ROI.