Taglines…Just do it!

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 25th, 2008 in Articles, Thoughts & Commentary



A tagline?  Does your nonprofit have one?  Do you really care whether you have one or not? 

Does it make or break your organization?  And I ask this as someone whose organization has a tagline:  In the business of nonprofits.   

Blogger Nancy Schwartz recently conducted a tagline survey and found that 72% of nonprofits don’t like or don’t have a tagline.  (Twelve nonprofits won prizes for the best taglines, and to that dozen I send congratulations.)   Well, gee whiz, that really concerns me.  Not!  Taglines are, and this is absolutely not a dis as I like our tag line, and we use it often, icing on a nonprofit cake.  They do, as Ms. Schwartz says, help establish brand and add new life to a worn message.  But they are still just icing.

If Ms. Schwartz had done a similar survey on mission statements, what would her results have been?  And mission statements are more central than a tagline to not just what an organization is, but how it operates.  Ninety percent of the time, you hear a tagline and you have no clue to what organization it belongs.  So what is the value of that?  But with a well crafted mission statement, a reader/listener should be able to get right to or pretty close to the nonprofit.  (My last two classes in nonprofit management offered as an elective La Salle University’s MBA program provide me the anecdotal evidence of this.)

What if Ms. Schwartz had done the survey on financial situations or program integrity?  Would she have found 72% of nonprofits unhappy with their financial position or unaware of it? Depending upon who she surveyed—senior management, other members of the organization, board members—odds are good that she would have found an awful lot unaware of the real financial situation of their organization.  Now that does concern me.

Program integrity is another where an awful lot of folks who are an integral part of an organization would most likely shrug their shoulders.  Would they know whether the people running a program have the appropriate skill set to deliver the product?  Would they know whether the program is really producing the outcomes it says it does?  Would they know whether the program was fiscally sound or draining the organization of valued resources for an uncertain outcome?  Now that does concern me.

I understand the value and importance of marketing our nonprofits in order to be successful in what we do.  But I also understand that as much as many people just like the icing, most want some cake to go along with that icing.   Let’s concentrate first on making sure we have a fully-baked cake before we pile on the sugar.

 The Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business – In the Business of Nonprofits         

The opinions expressed in Nonprofit University Blog are those of writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Salle University or any other institution or individual.