Nonprofit tagline writing can be a tough business. It’s a bit easier for short-term campaigns, but when you are picking the handful of words that will be next to your logo for years on end, it’s a rather daunting task.

Before I spout off about a few nonprofit taglines that grabbed my attention recently, I strongly encourage you to participate in Nancy Schwartz’s three-minute survey on taglines, if you haven’t done so already. I’m really looking forward to Nancy’s report and forthcoming advice. It should make this process a bit easier on all of us.

Now, on to my two cents on some current nonprofit taglines, followed by a few rules of thumb to use when creating your own.

“Doing the Most Good” by the Salvation Army

My five-year-old and I did a one-hour shift as bell ringers this year, in support of the soup kitchen the Salvation Army runs in our little town — in other words, don’t send me ugly mail about Salvation Army bashing, because I do support them. But I really don’t like this tagline.

My first reaction is that it sounds like the Salvation Army is saying that it does more good than anyone else, which is not the way a Christian organization should position itself, IMHO. When I looked into it, I see the tagline is meant to convey that the Salvation Army does the most good that it can with the donations of money and time it receives. In other words, it’s meant to be more of a claim of organizational efficiency and effectiveness than a comparison to other organizations. But, if I have to Google a phrase to understand its intended meaning, that tells me it’s not as clear as it should be.

“Finding Cures. Saving Children.” by St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital

Love this one. I instantly know what they do and all of their marketing materials reinforce this tagline. It’s simple, direct, and memorable. As a donor, I can see how I too can help find cures and save children. I’m slightly less enthusiastic about the “Thanks and Giving” tagline they use for their annual campaign, because it requires a slightly clunky explanation — Give thanks for healthy kids in your life and give to those who are not — but overall, I think it works.

“Bringing Innovations in Health and Learning to the Global Community” by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

This tagline is too heady, but what else can we reasonably expect from a foundation founded by America’s top geek? 🙂 This is an example of taking part of your mission statement and using it as a tagline, which is not really the best approach. It’s better to come at tagline writing from a conversational perspective, and “innovations in learning” is not chatty or memorable.

“There are No Limits to Caring” by Volunteers of America

Even though it’s in passive voice, I like this one, because it says to me that if I volunteer, there are no limits on the good that I can do with my time, which is a great motivator. It’s more about the volunteers than about the organization itself — another good audience-driven tagline.

“Teachers Ask. You Choose. Students Learn.” by

Another action-oriented, audience-driven tagline. Love it.

A Few Tagline Writing Tips

–Shorter is better. It’s easier to remember that way.

–Action-oriented is better. Verbs are very powerful conveyors of meaning.

–Audience-focused is better. Tell your supporters what happens when they work with you.