A colleague asked: “Is it more important for people to believe in the cause or the individual?”
My response: “Every cause needs a voice; every organization needs a face.”
We all know dynamic, inspirational figures that lead organizations we support or serve in. We follow pastors, executive directors, presidents, and other leaders who speak fluently and coherently on behalf of the cause for which they are advocates.
The nonprofit is the voice of the cause, because it can often have a bigger voice than an individual. At the same time, an individual can be the face of the organization. He or she will be the lead ambassador, and set the example for all others, from the board to the staff.
Both the cause and the organization are important. The organization will always speak on behalf of the cause; it’s critical for your audience to understand the difference between the two, and how they work together.
Remember, your audience may at first perceive a difference between the cause and the organization, but over time will associate your organization with the cause.
In the same way, over time your audience may associate an individual with your organization. That individual becomes a familiar face for the cause.
For example, hunger (what is now considered food insecurity), is a worldwide problem. Your local food bank will address the needs of those at risk for hunger in your community and region, and distribute food to the local food pantries. Food pantries will work to meet the need of distributing food to families in need.
Other non-government and food relief organizations will address the issue of hunger in developing countries. Your audience knows the difference. If they want to support hunger relief, they will choose to support the cause and organization with values that most closely align with their own.
Your audience has many choices of causes to support, and are drawn to those with which they are familiar. The more personable and personal you make your organization, the more it will seem familiar. Familiarity is nurtured by truthful stories, shared by ambassadors and advocates.
Your cause is bigger than your organization, and the nature of the cause is more compelling than the organization that represents it. Your organization represents the intersection of where the audience is connected with the cause, and where the audience is connected with your mission. That’s why you have to be the voice.
You will always need to ask yourself:
- If this is our organization, what is our actual cause?
- Given our cause, what is our purpose?
- Given our purpose, what is our mission?
This article is adapted from Amazon’s top-rated “Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto,” by Brian Sooy, a guide for leaders who desire to foster a culture of communication through brand, narrative, design, and purpose.