Tag, You're It: What Makes an Effective Nonprofit Tagline?

  • by Christine Batta
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How many nonprofit taglines can you recall off the top of your head? My guess is you are struggling to recall hardly any. Nonprofit taglines are not well known for effectively making an impression.

Taglines like “Connecting Givers for Good,” NCGives’ tagline before their recent reboot, are too vague to make a connection. And taglines like “We’ve been enthusiastically accomplishing a, b, c and d in your neighborhood since 1953” are creating the clutter, not cutting through it.

"The Nonprofit Tagline Report” of 2011 by Nancy E Schwartz announced that a majority (72%) of nonprofits rate their taglines poorly, or don’t have one at all. I want to talk about the taglines that are working too hard—addressing too many goals or exceeding the recommended 8-word limit. It seems nonprofit leaders’ fervent passion for their cause leads them in the direction of cumbersome taglines. Wanting the organization to be understood and most importantly, valued, makes the comfort of adding and adding to the tagline so attractive.

One of my favorite taglines that I came across in Schwartz’s 2011 nonprofit tagline report is for the Edmonton Public Library of Alberta, Canada. Their tagline, “Spread the Words,” is not only delightfully clever, but is open-ended and adaptable (developed by Donovan Creative). Libraries are already reaching beyond the traditional printed word to address new media tools. In this case, an exact and specific tagline would impose limits on incorporating evolving services into their organizational identity.

Edmonton Public Library Card

Edmonton Public Library billboard

Another nonprofit tagline that follows the same model is United Way’s “Live United.” They build off of their existing brand equity in the word United and create a participatory tagline onto which United Way supporters project what Living United means to them. This ad is an example of how supporting design and copy give the tagline a dynamic life.

United Way Live United ad

Does your nonprofit tagline need some TLC? An outsider opinion is a critical resource when evaluating this building block of your organization’s identity. We’d love to brainstorm helpful ideas with you. Give us as a call!