Many nonprofits help people who would be ashamed, bullied or even endangered if their involvement with the nonprofit were known. Examples include nonprofits who reach out to young children or individuals with an addiction or victims of domestic violence. How does a nonprofit raise funds or publicize its work when the privacy of the population it serves is paramount?
First, a client’s story may be publicized if the client is kept anonymous, through the use of initials or a false name (always identify a false name so that no real person is incorrectly associated with the story). Be careful to omit identifying details. Second, it is always permissible to speak in general terms, such as “our clients come to us with problems related to…and we help them by….Some of our clients have gone on to….” Third, sometimes clients who have passed through the nonprofit and are established in new lives are willing to talk about their journey, now that it is over. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but only if the old client’s willingness does not cause a loss of credibility in the eyes of current clients, concerned about their long-term privacy.
Also remember that numbers can speak volumes, as in “25% of our clients succeed in…and 10% of our clients were able to….” If your nonprofit relies heavily on volunteers, you might want to focus on the work of the volunteers (gathering donations, speaking in front of groups, moving furniture) rather than the clients. Active volunteers are one sign of a healthy organization.
All these methods are ways to give a face to your clients and create a connection with potential donors and volunteers–and with potential clients who may be hesitating to contact you. The line between satisfying the needs of your organization and satisfying the needs of your clients can be a thin one. Let TWP help you find the right balance.