Impactful Message

This past weekend, I visited Chicago and went shopping at Fashion Outlets of Chicago. While I was walking through the mall, I noticed this sign:


I was so impressed by this sign that I had to stop and take a picture. It grabbed my attention because it was simple and to-the-point, and I could read and understand it as I was walking by. The text was large enough and the message was short enough that I didn’t have to stop to read the sign. In five words, I knew which organization was promoting this message (Goodwill), what they wanted me to do (donate stuff), and what I would accomplish by doing so (create jobs).

After snapping the picture of Goodwill’s sign, I was curious to see whose message was on the other side. I couldn’t believe it when I looked on the other side and saw a sign for United Way!


Since I am a huge fan of United Way, I was excited to see they were also promoting their message in the mall. However, I wondered if United Way’s sign would have the same impact as Goodwill’s sign to a shopper who has never heard of United Way before. A few things I noticed about United Way’s sign that were different from Goodwill’s sign include:

  1. The logo was a lot smaller and in the bottom corner of the sign. If someone had not heard of United Way before, I wondered if they would notice this logo as they were walking by and know which organization was promoting this message.
  2. There was a lot more text for someone to read as they walk by. While United Way explained the need, results they have achieved, and actions to take, which are all great things to communicate, there was not a direct and simplified connection between what someone can do (Goodwill’s message = donate stuff) and what will happen (Goodwill’s message = jobs will be created).

As I was leaving the mall, I saw another United Way sign. The sign was formatted the same, but it communicated a different message:


I thought it was great that there was more than one sign located in the mall, to increase the chance of someone seeing United Way’s message, but I also wondered if someone saw both signs, if they would be confused about what United Way does.

I know United Way is unique compared to other nonprofits and most United Ways focus on more than one issue. However, I think it is absolutely essential to communicate a concise and consistent message, especially to people who may not know who you are or what you do.

The simplicity of Goodwill’s sign is what makes their message so powerful. They are communicating a simplified core message and you can easily understand who they are and what they do. Someone who has never heard of Goodwill before will walk away knowing what Goodwill does after reading their sign.

At Perspectives, we provide consulting that guides successful United Ways and we have over 25 years of experience in working with United Ways. We are offering four 2015 Signature Series webinars, which feature our latest research and most progressive concepts that are shaping the future of United Ways throughout the United States.

If your United Way is interested in simplifying your message, be sure to check out our 2015 Signature Series webinar, Create and Communicate a Message Everyone Wants to Know. This webinar was recorded live earlier this year and is available for immediate viewing, once you have registered and paid. For more information and to register, visit: