In 2008, I created a presentation for a nonprofit management class at Boston College‘s Carroll School of Management on the messaging and funding challenges for organizations that work in the sexual violence arena. This work came out of my experience as a volunteer at a local rape crisis center and nearly ten years of development and fundraising experience.
My biggest insight as a fundraiser, and as a human, is that messaging is as much as what people hear as it is what you say. And the fact of the matter is, when someone says rape, most people tune out because it is too painful and difficult to absorb. The way around this is to build the conversation around topics that are more comfortable – education, public health, children and youth, and/or economic development – and start drawing the line from there to sexual assault.
My hope is that more state coalitions will think creatively about how to discuss sexual assault and violence in a way that attracts both funding and strategic communications partners that reach large numbers of people. There are ways to do this that require minimal resources, and leverage connections for the largest possible impact. My guess is that, working together, state coalitions can find powerful partners who understand the message and will work with them to create change together.
Through the research for this presentation, I met Cat Fribley, who runs the National Resource Sharing Project, a coalition of state coalitions against sexual violence and assault, which led to a connection at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
The presentation is now being incorporated into a technical assistance guide for state coalitions and rape crisis centers across the country. I am really excited that these ideas are being disseminated to the people who need them, and can’t wait to see how this continues to evolve.
The presentation is included here: Messaging for Sexual Violence