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one-sentence description

The one-sentence description. Sounds simple, enough, right? No, it’s deceptively challenging. Shifting our focus to help mission-driven organizations is a natural one for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact they face many of the same challenges as for-profit organizations. Case in point: succinctly introducing your organization in one sentence.

Established, successful companies and organizations sometimes struggle with this challenge, so why wouldn’t many mission-driven organizations? Here are some reasons why a clear one-sentence description may elude you as well as what you can do to find it.

And even though it’s all about you, remember it’s not all about you.

Four challenges and four suggestions

You’re way too close to it.
Your organization is your primary focus, which you think about it 24/7/12. You know everything there is to know about it and think of little else. It is so easy to forget that not everyone has the level of intimacy with it that you do. Plus, you think, isn’t it obvious? The need is so clear!

Suggestion: Take a step back. Put yourself in the shoes of someone not associated with your world or the need you’re fulfilling. Ask yourself, what words would not make sense? What need am I meeting that they might not see?


It’s complicated!
It’s not as if the world is getting more straightforward with each passing day. The opposite is true. Sometimes, the solutions we create are complex, and getting their message across succinctly is almost impossible.

Suggestion: Join the Press Corps. Many journalists use a simple trick to learn about a topic quickly to report on it: Who, what, when, where, why, and how.


You’re speaking too broadly.
An introductory message has a broad audience. Funders, supporters, potential employees, and the merely curious— speaking to them all is challenging.

Suggestion: Prioritize your audiences. If you are faced with explaining what you do to a wide array of people and interests, it’s time to prioritize. What type of listener is most critical to your success? If you have a variety of audiences, tailor approaches customized to each.


Ocean’s don’t boil.
Often, we try to accomplish too much at once. Think of an introduction or one-sentence description as an invitation to learn more, not an opportunity to teach everything.

Suggestion: Get a squirrel to eat from your hand. Try to use your first words to someone as a way to draw them in. And even though it’s all about you, remember it’s not all about you.  Find the balance between what you need them to know and what they need to hear to learn more. 


If you struggle with finding a concise message, fret not, you are not alone. All of the work we do involves helping them do just that at one level or another. Strategic messaging starts with the one-sentence description.

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