Branding and messaging your nonprofit can be rife with challenges.

How do you develop a message that resonates across multiple generations of donors, each with differing views of generosity?

The solution is to leverage nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion that can significantly impact people’s attitudes and behaviors. It can unite audiences around a powerful idea and help shape their responses.

It involves tapping into collective memories and experiences to foster a sense of shared identity and purpose. And if you can evoke nostalgia effectively, it adds up to increased engagement and support.

2 unique nonprofit audiences

Most nonprofit organizations typically engage at least two specific audiences. 

One audience is those you’re “on mission for.” This is usually a group of people your nonprofit serves.

The other audience is the people you’re “on mission with,” such as donors and supporters

These two audiences are very different. 

Plus, you have variety within those audiences: older and younger donors. And each generation has very different views on generosity. This makes it challenging to develop messaging and a brand that can connect with each unique audience or persona.

How nostalgia in messaging unites audiences

Using nostalgia can help you develop a unique yet unifying message that connects with audiences across different demographics and psychographics. 

For example, say your nonprofit focuses on protecting young girls from trafficking. 

Your audience might include corporate sponsors, wedding industry influencers, individual donors, foundations, and newly married and young singles giving to your cause. 

How do you develop a message that works across such different audiences, of which 50% or more are potentially male?

Framing your nonprofit messaging with nostalgia

Here’s how an anti-trafficking nonprofit could use the power of nostalgia: Tap into an evocative narrative that weaves together the dream every little girl has for her wedding day plus every father’s dream to walk his daughter down the aisle. 

See how it bypasses the differences between audience segments?

Every girl has a dream. Give her a dream come true.

Every father has dreams for his little girl. Give him a dream come true.

Not everyone can relate to the issue of trafficking.

But every one of your audience segments can probably relate to the concept of dreams coming true.

That’s the power of nostalgia.

Use it strategically and intentionally, and you’ll foster a sense of community and belonging among wildly diverse supporters.

Use nostalgia with caution

Keep in mind, however, that using it inappropriately can have adverse effects.

If you rely too heavily on nostalgia, it can lead to a narrow focus on the past. This may keep your audience from being able to see how your organization meets the evolving needs of those it’s “on mission for.”

Why not try it out? 

See where you can build a narrative around common experiences and collective memory to inspire nostalgia across your diverse audiences.

The end result will be increased engagement, giving, and impact.