Nonprofit groups hone their message

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Dan English reads a writing sample he prepared in a writing exercise Thursday during non-profit workshop at the Best Western Coeur d'Alene Inn.

COEUR d'ALENE - Standing out in the crowd can be as simple as fine-tuning your message.

Fine-tuning your message can be as simple as narrowing down the target audience for whom it's intended.

In the world of nonprofits, those details can be the difference between fundraising pay dirt and squeaking by on pennies.

Several local agencies took a crash course Thursday on how to implement productive fundraising tricks to help them stand out in the nonprofit crowd, hosted by The Idaho Nonprofit Center at the Best Western Coeur d'Alene Inn.

Keys to fundraising success can be simple: Don't use meaningless words, for starters. And narrow your message to the audience it's supposed to reach.

"We spend too much time as nonprofits talking to too many people," said Lynn Hoffman, INC director.

Instead, she said, each agency caters to a certain audience, so nonprofits should craft their mission statements for precisely those groups.

And boring writing that uses meaningless words won't help attract any eyes, said Erica Mills, marketing specialist from Claxon Marketing who spoke to the groups.

Lose words and phrases like trying, just, provide, self-sufficiency and thriving communities.

What's wrong with 'just?'

"You mitigate importance," she said.

Trying?

"You're either doing it or you're not," she said.

And thriving community is silly because nobody is rooting for a dying one, she added. You have seven to nine seconds to grab someone's attention, so don't lose them on "meaningless jargon."

The all day conference offered tips the agencies could use every day, but also in preparation for the inaugural Idaho Gives on May. 2. Idaho Gives is a one day statewide fundraising drive put on by the INC where all of the Gem State's nonprofits try to raise as much as they can - a competition of sorts that can benefit nearly everyone.

Gayla Hatfield attended the event Thursday after she took over as president of Hope Preschool and Memorial Community Center in October. New to the position, she found it tough keeping up with the nonprofit's $65,000 annual operating expenses, let alone concentrating on adding new projects.

She explained that the biggest thing she learned was narrowing her audience. Not everyone will be willing to help the center in Hope; the key will be focusing on those who will.

"I think we were trying to target everybody in one message," she said of the old approach, which she called "spewing too much info out."

"I needed that assistance," she added. "I'm better prepared now."

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