Nonprofit Marketing: Years of messaging struggles gone in a day — a case study

“It’s just not sexy.”

That’s what Robin Phillips, chief executive officer of Child Care Aware of Missouri, told me about their messaging. For organizations that advocate and support those who provide direct services, the story is often hard to tell. I get it. Sometimes it is hard to find the "sexy”….that emotional pull that breaks through, gets attention and attracts you to new donors when your work is policy, advocacy, and systems change.

“We have struggled with this for years. If you can help us solve this, it would be huge. “

I knew the sexy was in there.

Because the staff at Child Care Aware is committed, passionate, bold, driven and relentless in their pursuit of making every day a kid in Missouri spends in child care a good one.

All this passion and devotion was lost in the marketing materials.

All branding and messaging does is close the gap between who you really are and how you present yourself. And there was a gap that made them look a little dry and tame when what they are are innovators and change agents.

So, when Robin asked if I could help, I knew I had the system for creating messaging as bold and engaging as the work they do. We schedule a half-day superstar fundraising on-site training to develop a tagline and new messaging so how they look and talk about themselves represents their authentic organizational personality.

I told them, “The creativity and the answers are in you. I am the vessel that brings it out.”

We started with a full-staff group and I led a discovery session. This hour conversation got to the heart of their strengths and their organizational personality. And what a personality emerged. This is a group of devoted champions of children with a deep belief in the importance of early childhood education. Now, to capture that in a main message and description. After discovery, we broke into a smaller leadership team to create the messaging.

By the end of the time together, barely under 4 hours, we came up with a main message and an agency description that reflects their personality, evokes emotion and gives them clarity and ease when talking about the organization. And they did it. It was their ideas, their words….I gave them the time, space and process to bring it out of them.

Child Care Aware of Missouri
Two-Thousand Days to Make a Difference

They had the 2000 days idea because that is the 0-5 years that are so critical. And they liked that the tagline invoked a questions or probing. It feels bold and different, like they are.

Here’s the agency description, so when people ask, “What do you do?” you don’t give a laundry list of programs, you give a concise description.

“We make a difference in the first two-thousand days for Missouri’s children so they can reach their maximum potential.”

Years of not understanding how to talk about what they do was gone in a day because they had a process to unearth those ideas. When I say I am a vessel and I am bringing the answers out of you, I mean it. When I am working with a group and we are creating together, my body vibrates at a higher level. I can feel their energy.

From Robin and Child Care Aware: “What an eye opening day! Maryanne took our entire team through a discovery phase to help us bridge the gap between our untapped, potential donors and brand recognition of our organization. She then led our leadership team into a deeper dive to help us get out of our own way so we could discover what we already knew to create messages to reflect our agency’s personality!! Maryanne ROCKS!! We accomplished so much in just a few short hours!!”

If you want this for your organization, half day sessions are $1,500 and full day is $2,500. A full day will walk you through all 8 steps and give you a complete marketing plan at the end. In a day. A new tagline in a day for $1,500? Yep! A marketing plan for $2,500? Yep. And like Child Care Aware, it will be from you and you will have more ownership of the outcome, and get lots of training for you to use as you implement.

If you…

  • can’t explain what organization because it does so many things

  • can’t tell your story in a way that generates excitement and engagement

  • want to attract more like-minded donors to you to raise more money

these trainings can help. Go to and schedule a time to talk about your struggles and your goals. Fundraising starts with telling your story effectively, so get started today.

Maryanne Dersch