Creating Talking Points for Nonprofits

A big part of an organization’s communication with the world at large is the ability to have clear, concise messaging. As a nonprofit, that messaging is your verbal advertisement, information source and selling point. It is important that everyone – from board members to staff – be able to speak with one voice and keep “on message.” This is where talking points come in handy.

Talking points are clear, concise, informed…and controlled messages board and staff can use when discussing key topics. Topics can range from a fundraising campaign to a particular crisis/issue you are facing to an announcement of a new product or service your organization is offering. Talking points can be about positive things and bad things.

What are the key elements of talking points?

Talking points are meant to provide important information in a clear and concise manner. Each point needs to address the subject you are talking about, provide the most pertinent information you want to convey and be targeted to the audience you are speaking to.

How do you come up with talking points?

  • Think about the issues you are going to address
    • What are you talking about?
    • Why do you need to share this information?
    • What is the process/action you are going to take/are taking/need the community’s support and help with?
    • How does this action address the issue or cause you are working on?
  • Think of the questions you’ll likely be asked
    • What are the main concerns of your audience?
    • What are the easiest questions you’ll be asked?
    • What are the hardest/most critical questions?
  • Write responses that acknowledge the questions/concerns and pivot to the organization’s action, strength and leadership in the matter
    • How is the organization prepared to answer/address the questions asked?
    • How can you pivot a negative into a call to action or a positive outcome?
    • How can you address an audience/community’s concern while providing positive action or leadership on the topic?

Many follow the idea that talking points should contain three key elements:

Define the reality and offer hope

This means to acknowledge the situation at hand and provide guidance and leadership the organization is taking

Use straight talk

Don’t use big language or double speak. Clearly state the issue/project and, likewise, clearly state how the organization is addressing the issue/project.

Converse, don’t lecture

Treat your audience with respect, speaking to them as equals and don’t get bogged down in too much information.

Sharing the talking points with key members

Once the talking points are agreed upon, they should be written down in a bulleted document and shared with all members of your board and your staff. This provides an ability for everyone to speak with one voice and with the same information. As we’ve stated before, if you are speaking with members of the press, it is important that quotes and interviews are conducted with the board president or designated spokesperson. While board members may have the talking points, it does not give them free reign to act as representatives for the organization in the larger sense.

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