What Makes Your Nonprofit Unique?

Being unique draws special attention to your programming and enhances the chance that donors and clients will choose your nonprofit. Your nonprofit may be more unique than you realize.

Being unique has significant practical value in addition to aiding sustainability. Uniqueness provides your stakeholders (clients, donors, referral sources, advocates, staff members, volunteers, and others) with the information they need to explain why they support your nonprofit. Uniqueness makes it easy for everyone to have a compelling reason for supporting your nonprofit besides low cost, good location, or familiar.

Sometimes uniqueness is seen as an attention getter like a funny hat or eccentric habit. However, that is uniqueness without substance. It may result in added attention but it will also lower the organization’s reputation when the world discovers there is minimal substance behind the uniqueness.

Here are three questions that will help you to define, discover, or shape your nonprofit’s uniqueness:

What do you promise that no one else is willing to promise?

What do you deliver that no one else is willing to deliver?

What do you believe that no one else is willing to believe?

The uniqueness of a nonprofit is strongest and most difficult for others to copy when the answer to all three questions is essentially the same. As an example:

We believe that through the disciplined application of psychological principles anyone we serve will become a productive member of society (Belief). Our alumni are productive members of society and enjoy a good quality of life (Deliver). And, if you become our client you will enjoy an enhanced quality of life (Promise).

A nonprofit would be foolish to make that statement without having a robust and effective program. The nonprofit must also be willing to accept that many clients will ignore the nonprofit because they unwilling to put in the work implied by the promise. However, it is easy to see that any nonprofit that makes and keeps that promise is unique and will have more than enough clients.

It does mean that some clients will be turned away because the nonprofit is unable to see how it can keep its promise. Obviously, those clients will need to find a nonprofit that is able to meet their needs. This creates a win-win situation. Each nonprofit’s clients receive the best possible programming at both nonprofits (the one that provides enhanced quality of life and the one that serves those who choose a different direction).

Next Step:

Determine what your mission statement promises that is unique or revisit your mission statement to provide a unique promise

Determine how to shape your programming to deliver on your promise

Determine how to express your promise in a way that is compelling for those who want the value your beliefs offer

Track your alumni so you can provide evidence that you keep your promise

When you know that an organization is able to keep its promises and its promises are important to you, they are your first choice when selecting a service provider. In fact, most people are less concerned about price when promises are valuable and kept.

Your nonprofit is valuable to your community. What is the promise that makes your nonprofit unique and especially valuable to your community? How can you enhance your promise, raise your uniqueness, and increase your value?


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