20 Great Techniques for Writing the Perfect Nonprofit Tagline

Vintage cartoon businessman with megaphone

A pitch-perfect tagline can be the foundation for all messages you create about your organization or program.

A tagline is a punchy phrase consistently linked with your organization. It enhances your name by clarifying your work and making it relevant to your audience. It's a powerful way to signify the brand promise your organization makes to the public. 

Here are some hints for making your next tagline sing.

Requirements of Great Taglines

Be memorable. 

A tagline that’s easy to remember will help people connect with your mission. Make it bold and brief; it should pack an emotional punch.

Engage the reader.

Make it clear that the reader is part of the equation. Avoid appearing as if you’re already solving the problem; instead, emphasize how much the reader means to your ability to solve it.

Communicate a key benefit.

Don’t write a tagline that’s all about you. Yes, it should help the reader understand your mission, but make sure it conveys a benefit to your reader—something meaningful from her point of view.

Capture the personality of the organization.

Your organization has a personality. If it’s a good one, people will want to associate with you. Is your organization serious or relaxed? Casual or formal? Make sure the tagline reflects the best of your organization's personality. 

Distinguish your organization from others.

What do you do better than other organizations? Are you the most effective? What makes you unique? Highlight this in your tagline. Remember, too, that you’re trying to differentiate yourself not just from similar organizations, but from all organizations. You want to be the reader's charity of choice. 

Reinforce your broader goals.

Your organization is probably working from a strategic plan, even if it isn’t written down. Be sure your tagline reflects your larger goals. Avoid being so clever or creative that the tagline contradicts what you’re really trying to accomplish. 

20 Prompts for the Perfect Tagline

Ready to start writing? Here are 20 techniques to bring your next tagline to life: 

  1. Command action
    Example: Open the eyes of tomorrow’s leaders (Global Glimpse)
  2. Use the word “You”
    Example: She led. So can you. (Ella Baker Center for Human Rights)
  3. Reference the problem you exist to solve
    Example: Let’s end abuse right here. (SAVE)
  4. Answer the question “Why?”
    Example: Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer (Earthjustice)
  5. State your organization’s core belief 
    Example: Live the life you want. (National Federation of the Blind)
  6. Use a single word
    Example: Thrive. (Kaiser Permanente)
  7. Paint a picture
    Example: Open the classroom door (Education Outside)
  8. Reinvent a commonly used cliché
    Example: No guts, no story. (Curious Theatre)
  9. Employ alliteration
    Example: Play Your Part (New Depot Players Community Theatre)
  10. Share a vision
    Example: AIDS Ends Here. (San Francisco AIDS Foundation)
  11. Rhyme
    Example: Give a hoot. Don’t pollute. (USDA Forest Service)
  12. Juxtapose ideas
    Example: Food for people, Not for profit (Community Food and Justice Coalition)
  13. Repeat a word with different meaning
    Example: The mission with a heart in the heart of the city. (Central Union Mission)
  14. Make a joke
    Example: The Quickest Way from Q to A! (University of West Florida Libraries)
  15. Repeat a word in different forms
    Example: Live Life Well (OLE Health)
  16. Ask a rhetorical question
    Example: What’s in your wallet? (Capital One)
  17. Employ the rule of 3
    Example: Reach. Teach. Ignite. (Jewish LearningWorks)
  18. Use personification
    Example: Kleenex says bless you.
  19. Write the worst possible tagline for your organization
  20. Now write its opposite

Want to learn more about how to write the perfect nonprofit tagline? Join me for my webinar with Foundation Center, “How to Craft an Effective Tagline on Tuesday, February 23, 2016, from 2:00-3:00pm ET.      

Zach Hochstadt

ZACH HOCHSTADT is a founding partner of Mission Minded, a branding firm that works exclusively with nonprofit organizations and foundations, and runs its Denver office. Zach is a branding and strategic communications expert with a gift for imagining and then translating organizational initiatives into creative solutions.