Category Archives: Book Excerpts

Highlight the strengths of your mission

stand out[Dalya’s Note: This is an excerpt from my award-winning book, Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact.]

Remind your readers continually of what is innovative about your mission. No one likes to reinvent the wheel or be part of something garden-variety. Show that you play a special and essential role in your field: a role that cries out for involvement from your readers.

Ask_yourselfAsk yourself: How is your mission unique within your field, and how does that give you a special niche?

Your mission may be to implement an entirely new solution to an age-old problem that has been haunting your community. Or maybe you are striving to improve or expand what already has begun to work. Either way, identify what it is about your mission that makes it extraordinary.



1) Por Fin Nuestra Casa (Spanish for “finally, a home of our own”) has the mission:

“To raise the standard of living for families who currently reside in dangerous or substandard conditions.”

Not so unique, you might think. But they then flesh it out:

“We advance this cause by creating shelters from low-cost recycled materials. PFNC utilizes surplus shipping containers resulting from the United States’ consistent trade deficit. These containers serve as the building block of PFNC housing, but go through an extensive conversion process to make them a home. PFNC offers an affordable housing solution that is scalable and fully portable. Each PFNC unit includes First World amenities for a price of less than $10,000 (US).”

Continue reading

Spotlight your mission repeatedly

Stage_Spotlight[Dalya’s Note: This is an excerpt from my award-winning book, Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact.]

Have you advanced your organization’s mission today? Your readers are eager to know about it!

Every marketing or fundraising piece you write needs to speak to the advancement of your organization’s reason for existing in the first place. That is, every page should remind your readers that you never forget what you set out to do in your community.

Every values-driven organization has a specific mission to make a positive difference in the world. My guess is that you already know what yours is. You may not have memorized your official mission statement, but you are clear on the essence of your organization. Your mission, after all, is a key part of your organization’s brand..

To each of your readers, your mission, or perhaps some particular aspect of it, is the heart of the matter. They want to hear that it is central to everything you do. They want to know that your work continues to be relevant to their lives and the life of their community, even as times and circumstances change.

There is no shame in reminding yourself of your organization’s mission statement once in a while. Some people I know even plaster it on the wall or make it their screensaver to keep it at the top of the mind and on the tip of the tongue.

Your mission should inspire and motivate support and commitment from those who share your concerns. Your organization’s name alone should cause your mission to spring to mind.
However, if you—and your colleagues—do not revisit your mission statement regularly, and ideally fine-tune or update it on occasion, you can get stuck in out-of-date patterns of branding. This is true for both start-up organizations (whose missions are usually still evolving) and more established groups. For instance, a client organization of mine had focused for decades on the needs of all low-income families, but recent demographic changes in their county compelled them to focus on new immigrants, with their associated cultural and linguistic challenges.

Continue reading

Are You Listing All the Benefits You Offer? (Part 2)

[Dalya’s Note: This is an excerpt from my award-winning book Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact. Today we pick up where Dalya left off in Part 1.]

lady benefitsIn Part 1 of this article, we discussed both tangible and intangible benefits that your organization provides.  Now I want to ask you: How can you find out more about your constituents’ intrinsic motivations for being involved with your organization?

We know of many ways to gather this information, including simple focus groups, surveys, and observation (see HERE). In the process, you may discover benefits of your service or product that you had overlooked. For instance, constituents may be using your work in ways that you were unaware of. You can then integrate your new knowledge into your growing reader databank.

Once you have some clarity about their relevant needs and interests, you can tailor your messages to emphasize the benefits that are most meaningful. Identifying and promoting the benefits of your product or service also help to further establish your organization’s brand. That is, the benefits you offer should align well with your intended image in your readers’ minds.


Sometimes your readers will be very interested in the specific features of your service or product, and somewhat suspicious if you only focus on benefits. If that is the case, respect their need to know and give them the data they need to make up their own minds. Explain how and why the features of your organization’s service or product can lead directly to the benefits your readers might seek. This situation exemplifies the importance of knowing your readers.

bonus tipBONUS TIP

What if you know your reader is comparing two or more similar products or services with similar benefits? In that case you may want to talk about individual features that set you apart from others. Chances are good, though, that if you can identify a particular set of benefits that you alone can offer, the relevant features will help back you up.

Remember that not all your readers will come to your work as individuals. Some of them will represent other organizations, and may have slightly different concerns.

Ask_yourselfAsk yourself: What benefits would they need to be aware of to make a case for engaging with you? And what would hold them back?

All of these concerns should be on your mind as you write for these intended readers.


Let’s say that your reader works at a funding institution or an organization that works in a field closely related to yours, and is concerned about the issue or challenge your organization addresses. Then, she stumbles upon your document.

She would be interested in learning about your work in terms of benefits to her and her organization, such as how it will:

  • Fit with her overall mission and strategic direction
  • Work in conjunction with other things she already has or does
  • Help her fulfill her responsibilities to her community
  • Help her avoid a negative outcome
  • Make her look good in the eyes of her supervisor, colleagues, and/or stakeholders

bonus tipBONUS TIP

Interestingly, many marketers have found that people will reward you if you slightly understate, but then over-deliver on, your promise of features or benefits. If your readers are pleasantly surprised, they will come back for more.


Are you listing all the benefits you offer? (Part 1)

[Dalya’s Note: This is an excerpt from my award-winning book Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact.]

lady benefitsYou probably have noticed that most people who get involved with community-benefit organizations like yours are not looking only for a material benefit to themselves. Sure, they may be interested in the tangible things you can offer them. And they obviously value the work you do in your community. But they are also interested in the psychological and emotional benefits they can gain because of the nature of your work.

This fact defines socially responsible organizations, and you should take it seriously. It can help position your work in the forefront of your readers’ minds.

Your organization’s vision and mission will point you toward uncovering the many unique benefits you offer your clients and customers. For more about how to use your mission in that way, see Chapter 11, “Spotlight your mission repeatedly.”

To start you down this path, I have listed some sample types of benefits, both tangible and psychological/emotional, that your organization may offer to different constituencies. In the list below, I have divided constituents into two categories, but they may overlap at your organization. The asterisks denote benefits that appear in both categories. See how many apply to your work or to any particular aspect of it. Of course, your particular organization will offer many others.

Tangible Benefits

  • A convenient opportunity, despite their hectic lives, to make a difference in their community
  • A chance to serve as a community resource—to share their good fortune or give something back in a way that matters to them
  • Small gifts or subscriptions
  • Special recognition for their involvement or accomplishment
  • Tax deduction or rebate
  • Access to unique expertise that addresses a key problem in a socially responsible manner
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Interactions with other people with whom they share values, beliefs, concerns, and struggles
  • New skills and/or understanding
  • Preparation for the future
  • Improved health and well-being
  • Risk or cost reduction
  • Safety for family, friends, or community
  • Time savings

Psychological/Emotional Benefits

  • A sense that they are part of a winning team that is making the world a better place
  • Feelings of being kind, generous, trustworthy, helpful, important, conscious, and contributing citizens
  • Improved morale, excitement, or inspiration
  • The knowledge that they are doing their part to solve a problem that directly or indirectly affects them
  • The knowledge that they are empowering themselves and others to make their own decisions
  • Increased confidence
  • Feelings of personal dignity

Keep these factors in mind when you are trying to understand your readers (that is, “get inside their heads”). If your written pieces acknowledge and support these needs in your readers, you will be on the way to instilling a sense of your organization as an important part of their lives.  You can do that by naming these benefits whenever they come up, or at least implying their presence.


1) A wealthy donor is interested in contributing financially to his community on a global level, but is unclear about how to go about it. Let’s say that your organization is involved in international work focusing on women and girls, and you want to reach out to this reader. How would you do it?

In a letter to him, you would touch on the benefits—both tangible and psychological or emotional—that he would receive from investing in you and your partners overseas. Depending on what you know about the person, you may mention things like:

  • Your organization hopes to offer him the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of women and girls around the world by partnering with the experts on your team
  • Your organization has a great track record of success stories
  • His generosity now is a way for him to “give something back” and “do his part” by empowering others and helping prepare them to join our global community
  • By joining your circle of donors, he will be able to meet regularly with others who share his commitment
  • Your organization is a registered nonprofit and all gifts are tax-deductible

2) Your organization’s products—t-shirts made of organic cotton and sewn in factories certified to be sweatshop-free—display award-winning local artwork that is silk-screened by a union shop using soy-based inks. Your prices are competitive with other high-quality t-shirts that sport none of these special features.

I am sure you can name several of this product’s many benefits for the individual consumer, the community, and the environment!

(See Part 2 of this article: HERE)

Start with your features, but move right to benefits

[Dalya’s Note: This is an excerpt from my award-winning book Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact.]

benefits and featuresConsider the features of your work: the components or characteristics of the actual services or products your organization offers. The details of your features often include answers to questions your most interested readers might ask. Examples might be technical specifications or information on exactly how you carry out your programs.

Benefits, on the other hand, are the tangible and intangible outcomes you are striving for: the great results and powerful impact that your stakeholders will get from working with you.


An organization runs a homeless shelter for families. It offers warm beds, restrooms, and other facilities. It also hires child care workers and counselors, uses volunteers, operates a soup kitchen, and offers services to help residents find more permanent housing or jobs.

Those are all features of the organization’s work.

The benefits are the positive effects that those things have on the shelter residents and the community at-large. Here we are talking about the difference the organization makes in addressing the problems associated with homelessness, both short- and long-term.

Some of those benefits may be:

  • Increased stability and nutrition in the lives of the homeless families
  • Increased employment among homeless parents
  • Fewer families living in cars or on the streets
  • Less desperation, which often leads to crime, drug abuse, and other social ills
  • The sense of being a community that cares for all of its citizens

Here are three related questions that can help you identify the benefits of your work:

1) Ask_yourselfAsk yourself: What does your service or product mean for your reader and/or community—personally, professionally, financially, physically, logistically, spiritually, and/or emotionally?


The Health Trust, which oversaw and partially supported the School Health Clinics of Santa Clara County, worked with me several years ago to document their benefits to the community. That language then served them for years in all kinds of successful documents. This is some of the text, focusing on economic benefits:

The School Health Clinics play a critical role in support of the educational process. They prepare children and families to be informed health care consumers and encourage self-responsible behaviors. The Clinics represent wise investments, as they lead to a healthy community and a healthy future workforce.

  • Each clinic visit will save the community from $160 to $2,000 in physician or emergency room costs.
  • School-based health care gives working parents a health care choice that allows them to access health care for their children, thus reducing costly disruption, distraction, and absence from their workplace.
  • Companies have better informed employees who are likely to make wise health care and lifestyle choices for themselves and their families. And healthy employees with fewer health risks give employers a negotiating advantage with health insurers. Thus, corporate financing of school-based health care can be part of a company’s community development and philanthropic strategy to benefit many constituencies.

(Website: Health Trust)

2) Ask_yourselfAsk yourself:  What will happen as a result of the particular features you offer? And how does that satisfy the needs and desires of your readers?


An organization that provides massage therapy to cancer survivors might say:

Your compassionate investment of $100 will buy a new clinic massage table (feature), enabling our volunteer therapists to provide 50 additional revitalizing, healing massages per week to cancer survivors like Jose (client benefit). You will be helping your friends and neighbors enjoy happier, healthier, more productive, and (as suggested by recent medical studies) longer lives (social benefit).

3) Ask_yourselfAsk yourself: For each feature you offer, ask “So what?” How does that lead to something better for my reader and/or the community?


Our company exterminates termites and other pests from your home or office with natural orange peel oil.



Proven effective within 24 hours


It will decisively solve your termite problem quickly.

Nontoxic and natural

It is better for your health with no side effects for adults or children.



You can use your home right afterward, with no waiting.



It is not dependent on petroleum.

Guaranteed to keep your home or office pest-free for at least 12 months


Saves you the expense and hassle of re-exterminating.


Consistent with overall green lifestyle


You will do your part for the planet.