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Five mistakes most charities make with their USP

Five mistakes most charities make with their USP

One of the most common issues we see in organisations trying to fundraise or sell, is a failure to recognise the importance of differentiation.

Differentiation is key to making your organisation memorable, your messages portable, and is a crucial factor in fundraising success.

Yet, in the quest for these snappy ‘distinctive’ messages, so many organisations distill the essence of what they do into a bland sameness, particularly when you layer on the usual sector jargon – describing services as bespoke, customer-focused, efficient, multi-disciplinary, partnership-working and outcome based.

In our experience, the most common ways we see charities describe themselves are:

• client-focused

• environmentally conscious

• value for money

• caring

• professional

These constitute the five big mistakes that charities make with their unique selling points (USPs). For the simple fact that they are not differentiating messages.

Can you imagine any organisation promoting themselves with the opposites to those words? Who would want to work with an organisation which claimed it was:

• money focused

• environmentally reckless

• not value for money

• uncaring

• unprofessional?

No-one. Words where the opposite isn’t also a potential strength are not differentiators. This is a good indicator of how often we waste time telling people things that they will just assume.


A simple guide to creating differentiation

We have a handy exercise to help you cut the fluff from your messages, (which hopefully will leave more space for you to tell people the information they really need):

1. Start by writing down four or five single words or short phrases which you think differentiate yourself from other organisations, especially those who are a competitor for funding.

2. When you have your list of words or phrases, write next to each of them the opposite of the word you have.

3. If that opposite isn’t also a potential strength, then it’s not a differentiator.

It’s a blunt tool, and how you support your claims with evidence is also important. And… it’s possible to have five words which completely pass the test and still not be very exciting, so on it’s own it’s not enough. But… if you wrote client-focused, until one of your competitors starts saying that they don’t give a fig about their clients, you haven’t really added much information, have you?

Try it for your own organisation, and just check you aren’t falling into this common trap.

When you’ve simmered down, distilled and clarified the essence of what you do, is it different enough?


About Ruby Star Associates

Ruby Star Associates is the UK’s only Ooomph Agency. We help charities, social enterprises and passion-driven businesses of all shapes and sizes build partnerships, sell better, generate more income, and innovate. We offer training, advice, support, and even some “doing”. We also help organisations to change their relationship with the external world though innovation and better articulation of the social value they create. We use a wide range of techniques including the LEGO (R) Serious Play (TM) materials and methodology.

0844 358 577

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