Nonprofit Marketing Tips: Selecting a Messaging Category

In marketing for nonprofits, the Messaging process consists of four key areas: Defining Your Target Audience, Selecting a Category, Creating Differentiation, and Constructing Reasons to Believe. The second phase, Selecting a Category, may seem like a simple task, but, according to ESC consultants Marjorie Bauer and Debra Yanofsky, there is a great deal of deliberation and careful evaluation that must be done before this step is taken.

Selecting a category, or frame of reference, is so important to the Messaging process because it helps your organization find a place in your audience’s mind. Potential donors, constituents, volunteers, funders and other individuals or organizations vital to your nonprofit will find and remember you through appropriate language—that which describes the type of organization your nonprofit falls under. This is helpful on a number of different levels, between a person’s ability to efficiently find your organization in an online search or a potential funder’s memory of your organization as a viable recipient of a major grant.

The Category selection process also determines your competition, and vice versa. Depending on how you define your organization’s frame of reference, you could put yourself in a tough position (where competition is fierce) or set yourself up to be a market leader. Ideally, you want to look for the biggest category in which you can be distinctive and have the highest level of competency possible among competitors. The nonprofit sector can be difficult to navigate in terms of competition as we often share missions with other organizations if not collaborate and partner with them directly. Still, you are competing for a place in people’s minds as well as for resources. With this in mind, you must carve out your distinction within your competitive market.

Messaging is all about highlighting your nonprofit’s unique strengths. When you approach this process in a structured way, results can be beyond what you’d ever imagined. If you are interested in learning more about how an ESC Marketing or Branding project can impact your nonprofit, please contact our office at or 617.357.5550. We offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit to all interested organizations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.