What makes your environmental organization unique? Nope, it’s not that. Think again.

Being unique is terrific.  It sets you apart.

Every environmental organization I come across is unique in its own special way.

(This is the part where we all dance in a circle holding hands.)

Unfortunately, so much of the time, as a potential prospect, I have to dig deep to find that uniqueness.

You may be offended by that.  (Circle dancing time is over.)

I’m sure that as a dedicated employee/founding member/passionate advocate of your environmental organization you think it’s the only one of its kind.

But you’re probably wrong.

Defining your uniqueness

In copywriting, we call the definition of uniqueness the USP.  The Entrepreneur has a great definition of it as it relates to traditional sales.  I look at it mostly from the view of environmental organizations and how you separate yourself from a herd that to an average prospect is very frequently lumped together.

To most of your loyal readers, distinguishing the exact difference between the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society takes too much work for too little personal benefit. (Mother Jones has an excellent post about the slight differences in both names and mission statements of environmental organizations.  Some of them are terrifying.)

Take my word for this. Your average prospect is not going to ferret out what makes you different from the next guy on their own.

For example, while their names are quite different, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council actually have very similar missions and methods.

Do prospects care?

Not really.  Most prospects feel like these environmental organizations are totally different.

How did they set themselves apart when their cores seem so similar?

We’re getting there…

Think about what makes your environmental organization unique

This guy knows what's up.
This guy knows what’s up.

You probably think this information is wonderfully conveyed in your mission statement.

And you’d be partially right.  But, you’d also be totally wrong.

Your mission statement is probably very well written.

But, believe it or not, the number of prospects who are actually going to read your specific mission statement rests at about… well, let’s say… zero.

Don’t rely on your mission statement to make you unique.

So, then, the question actually becomes…

How do you convey what makes you unique to prospects?

This guy also knows what makes him unique.  Can you say the same about your organization?
This guy also knows what makes him unique. Can you say the same about your organization?

Instead, look at your mission statement and ask “So, what?”

A lot.

This is a tried and true method for copywriters trying to get to the root of just what makes an organization or product tick.

Keep in mind that what makes you more awesome than the next guy may not be just one thing.  It may be a whole host of things that seen together make you completely different.

A “So, what?” example.  

A great example of an organization using the “So,what?” technique comes from the mission statement page of The Nature Conservancy.

“The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.”

Great.  Generic, short, and sweet.  We all want what they want.

So, what?

“Our vision is a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives.”

Excellent.  They took a solid mission statement and transformed that into a nicely worded vision.  Especially the part about fulfilling our needs and enriching our lives.

Then, they put the cherry on top, and “So, what?” their way to home base: specifically defining how they achieve and perceive their successes.

“How do we achieve this mission and vision?

  • Through the dedicated efforts of our diverse staff, including more than 600 scientists, located in all 50 U.S. states and more than 35 countries.
  • With the help of our many partners, from individuals and governments to local nonprofits and corporations.
  • By using a non-confrontational, collaborative approach and staying true to our five unique core values.”

And finally, after all that action-specified definition, they pack a one-two punch of not only patting themselves on the back, but actually demonstrating proof to their prospects that their actions have worked.

“That’s how The Nature Conservancy has done more than anyone else to advance conservation around the world since our founding in 1951.”

I’ll stop there, but you can see that with each one of the above bullets, a further action step is defined and they can “So, what?” themselves all the way to the bank.

* FYI… I don’t write for TNC, so no one is paying me to tell you how great they’ve got it all figured out.  

Ask yourself harder and harder questions

It may seem too trivial, but I challenge you to try the “So, what?” technique.

Trust me that eventually you will get to the deeper meaning of your organization.  Keep at it until you can’t uncover any more layers.

And then, define some action.

If you haven’t guessed it already, this is the point of this exercise.

So… just what will set you apart in the eyes of your prospect?

Your actions.

In the example above, don’t be fooled that prospects are reading, comprehending and internalizing the mission statement of The Nature Conservancy.  That’s not what people do.

But by defining it so completely, TNC has effectively planned out a strategy for setting themselves apart from the rest.

Who is all this soul searching for?

Who it’s always for.

Your gut probably tells you, well, it’s for the wolves, or the bears, or the acres of native prairie my environmental organization is trying to save.  Or perhaps even my staff.  After all this soul searching, we’ll have a super action plan defined!

And while I did just say that the goal of this is to define some unique actions, that’s not quite the end game I’m looking for.

In this case, your hard work is for your prospect and defining how your prospects will interpret your actions.  If they don’t see you as something special, you’re toast, as I’m sure you’re painfully aware.

All your hard work will give your potential supporters the answer to this question:

“What can I get from you that I’m not already getting from other environmental organizations?”

And to “So, what?” myself a bit… they need to also have this follow up question answered:

“What is it I really want out of my vision of myself and my future that I’m not finding in those other organizations?” 

You may feel like this is all very touchy feely.  But try to resist.  Every organization does this.

Case in point…

Word for word, here is the mission statement from Domino’s Pizza, as worded on their website:

“Sell more Pizza, have more fun!”

How did they “So, what?” this into a thriving business?  By defining their USP in a simple, prospect-oriented tagline:

“You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”

Simple, effective, and the best part?  They made it all about me… their prospect.

My vision for my future involved pizza delivered straight to my door so I don’t have to get dressed, drive to a store, cook, do dishes… and Domino’s answered that vision in a way I couldn’t get from another organization (like, say, the grocery store, or another take out place that just can’t quite promise they’ll get to me before I cave and open a bag of chips).

Relate everything back to the prospect and how it impacts them.

The bottom line is that what makes you unique has nothing to do with your mission statement or even your USP, and it certainly doesn’t have to do with how many organizational retreats you have around a campfire discussing what makes your particular environmental organization awesome.  arrow

It’s how your prospect interprets your business.

I feel like I should put that in flashing lights.

How your prospect interprets your business is how they will immediately distinguish you from the next guy.

Why, specifically, would he donate to you when there is another organization he also cares about waiting in the wings?  What, specifically, will draw prospects to you over others?

Once you find the answer to that, you’ll know exactly what makes you unique.

Don’t save it for a rainy day.  Every decision you make afterwards should support that definition.


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