Nonprofits and local governments in particular offer many free services you would think are a win-win. After all, who wouldn't want free rebate money, or provide feedback on adding more bike lanes on their local streets, or to attend a great community event?
As a "free" institution, it's very easy for organizations that don't charge for their services to get caught in these 4 common traps with their messaging:
- Thinking that "because I'm passionate about this topic, everyone else must be too!" This is a common problem with environmental messaging, as it'll often have a value statement centered around the environment as opposed to the other, higher priorities their target audience has. This often resonates poorly with businesses and the general public in particular as the environment is not typically their highest priority value. For example, if you're trying to get the public to support alternative transportation, maybe a better emphasis is "enjoy a shorter commute" as opposed to "it's good for the environment."
- Forgetting that time= money for most people. If you're making the action/commitment difficult, or time-consuming, your service or benefit isn't really "free," and will need the assistance of some incentives. This brings us to our next trap which is...
- Not identifying WIIFM ("What's in it for me?"). Even if you have the greatest service, event, etc. in the world, your target audience will still need to think it's relevant to them personally if you want them to respond. Make sure to articulate those benefits in a way that people can apply it personally. For example, a student may be somewhat interested in helping at your beach clean-up event (i.e. "help the environment"), but is more likely to actually sign up if it's also presented as an opportunity to satisfy community service hours.
- Not having a clear call to action. Many junk e-mails lead with vague requests for support, help, time, etc. without a clear definition of what that looks like. You want someone's feedback, not necessarily their time. You want people to donate, not just their "support." Making that request as specific and clear as possible at the outset will make it easier for your target audience to participate and continue "supporting" your mission.
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