How to Find Your Tone of Voice for Not-for-Profits
  • 6-minute read
  • 7th February 2024

How to Find Your Tone of Voice for Not-for-Profits

Striking the right tone of voice as a not-for-profit organization is often easier said than done – how can you effectively convey your message while ensuring you reach the right audience? And once you find a tone of voice that works, how do you consistently apply it to all your communications? Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers! 

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at how to find the right tone of voice for your not-for-profit organization, including how to:

  1. Consider your values and mission.
  2. Identify your audience.
  3. Analyze successful campaigns.
  4. Stay authentic to your values.
  5. Ask your audience for feedback.
  6. Edit to ensure consistent messaging. 

Keep reading to learn more about finding the right tone of voice for not-for-profits and why it matters.

Why is Tone of Voice Important?

Not-for-profit organizations span a variety of industries – including community development, education, healthcare, environmentalism, and the arts. No matter what your field, your tone of voice is how your organization expresses its mission and objectives. This includes external communication like website copy and emails, as well as in-house publications, such as employee presentations and guides. 

It goes beyond the words you choose; it includes the overall style and “personality” elements of your organization’s identity. Your tone of voice should be evident in all aspects of your branding, including calls to action to donate or volunteer. 

The tone you choose for your not-for-profit organization is essential to building a foundation of trust and credibility with your audience, and the right one could even help inspire new partnerships and boost community support. But how do you select just the right tone of voice, one that inspires action, empathy, and support for your mission? That depends on a few important details relating to your specific organization and cause. 

Next, let’s look at the factors to consider as you decide on the tone of voice that works for your not-for-profit and what you hope to accomplish.

Consider Your Values and Mission

The right tone of voice will largely depend on your not-for-profit’s essential core values and mission statement. So as the first step to choosing your tone, make a list of the fundamental motivations and philosophies of your organization (e.g., equity, integrity, transparency). Then, note a few descriptive words or phrases that best reflect the primary goals of your not-for-profit. (e.g., Do you hope to be seen as informative, community-building, inspirational?) 

The combination of your core values and how you want to be perceived by your community will help guide your tone of voice.

Identify Your Audience

After you’ve clearly articulated your foundational principles and objectives, consider your target audience. Since every not-for-profit has different goals, how they’re viewed (or want to be viewed) by their members and audience will vary. Pinpointing the demographics of your audience (e.g., age, location, employment status) will allow you to choose a tone that best suits those you hope to reach the most. 

Informally survey your supporters and people who have made donations in the past by polling them on social media or engaging them directly on your website or over email. Besides questions about their specific demographics, you can ask them what they expect to see from your organization and how they view your work. 

Do they see you as compassionate? Authoritative? Grassroots? Their responses could tell you the tone of voice that resonates with them and will give you an idea of the style you should aim for – uplifting, friendly, knowledgeable, etc.

Analyze Successful Campaigns

Look at successful not-for-profit campaigns that resonate with your values. These could be past projects run by your organization or other not-for-profits with similar objectives. Analyze the tone of voice used in their messaging and content; ask yourself what made those campaigns effective and how did the tone contribute to their success. 

While you may not be able to (or want to) implement every aspect of those campaigns, you can use certain aspects as inspiration for the future.

Stay Authentic and True to Your Values

Trustworthiness and reliability are crucial characteristics people look for in the not-for-profit organizations they support. Your tone of voice should always sound genuine and remain true to the commitment your organization has to your specific cause or purpose. 

Essentially, implementing a certain tone of voice should never come at the expense of authenticity, so make sure you choose one that makes sense for your mission. Don’t feel pressure to keep up with trends if they don’t work for the image you want to project to your audience.

Ask Your Audience for Feedback

Who better to help you find the right tone of voice than your target audience? Test your tone with a sample group of supporters and seek their feedback and constructive suggestions. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, or even informal conversations. Based on the responses, you can make adjustments to ensure you’re correctly implementing your desired tone of voice and projecting your intended message.

Edit to Ensure Consistent Messaging

Ensure that everyone representing your not-for-profit, whether staff or volunteers, understands and embodies the established tone of voice. Consistency is key to building trust within your community. This means tailoring your chosen tone of voice to your social media channels, website, and any other platforms you use to publish content. 

If you don’t have one already, consider creating a brand style guide that reflects the elements of your desired tone of voice – and make it accessible to your entire team. If you want to ensure all the content published by your not-for-profit reflects your chosen tone of voice, edit and proofread it for consistency and adherence to your style guide.

Grant Proposal Editing Services

Finding the right tone of voice that aligns with your values is an ongoing process that will evolve as your organization grows and faces new challenges. Applying for and obtaining funding is an essential aspect of running a successful not-for-profit – which means your grant proposals need to stand out from the competition and make an impact. Schedule a call today to learn more about how professional editing can help increase your grant proposal’s chance of success and secure the funding you need.

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