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Leading with Values: How Communicating Your Organization’s Values Will Help You Live Them

Susan Wolfson, Senior Director, Integrated Initiatives

Claire Schultz

Claire Schultz, Director of Marketing, External Communications & Business Development

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ‘em all over everything you do.”

—Elvis Presley

As individuals, we live by our own set of values—those fundamental operating principles that shape our purpose, inform our practices, and guide our actions. Throughout our lives, it is our values that pave and direct our path, inform our choices, shape our decisions, and help keep us accountable for how we live. Over time, our views may shift and our practices may vary, but our values stand as the essential, immutable anchor on which to reflect, resolve, and rely.

Values are meant to inform, inspire, and implore a way of being, serving as both a compass and a gauge. For organizations of all types, values also serve as an indicator of who that organization is, and what it stands for to the individuals, institutions, and communities with which it relates. Similar to personal values, organizational values must be clear and compelling, and define an identity with organizational action. The relevance of an organization’s values is directly related to the rigor and integrity of the process by which they came to be—and whether there is an intentional, structured approach in place to ensure they are lived.

Within the social sector, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders should live and model their organizational values, using them to guide their organization; they must be communicated clearly, credibly, and consistently to all stakeholders, both within and outside the organization. The crucial role leaders play in embracing and conveying their organization’s values cannot be underestimated. Values-led organizations have a bright north star—a greater sense of purpose to align and advance their social impact goals.

Values-based communications—a natural outgrowth of values-led organizations—strengthen nonprofits and foundations by creating and deepening connections with others who have shared beliefs and views. Strategic communications that are values-based amplify to all audiences what the organization does (action) and what it stands for (purpose) in a clear, concise, and consistent manner.

For organizations looking to build buy-in around funding decisions, to attract and retain supporters, or to recruit and retain staff more effectively, values-based communications helps foster a vibrant culture from which to make decisions and take action. When everyone in an organization operates under a common set of values, and those values are seamlessly infused throughout all communications, a common ground from which to do the work is established.

Best Practices for Infusing Values into

Your Organization’s Communications


TCC Group recently created a Value-Based Communications diagnostic tool for the social sector that is designed to assess whether and how your organization is communicating its values as a systematic driver of change. This tool will assist in reviewing your current communications practices and help to organize and elevate the role that values play in connecting and engaging with partners, stakeholders, and communities. The tool will help you:

  • Develop and present values clearly in words, symbols, and visual images


  • Reinforce values consistently in individual and group meetings and presentations both internally with staff and board, and externally with volunteers, clients, partners, community members, and the media


  • Emphasize your values through engaging stories and images that bring them and their impact to life in your marketing communications materials


  • Incorporate your values into the white papers, reports, case studies, and other such communications


  • Feature your values in orientation and training programs for new and existing employees and board members, and include them in presentations and associated marketing communications


  • Share your values clearly, consistently, and frequently with influencers including sector media/publications, mainstream news media, and other sector professionals who can help carry your values-based messages into communities

2020 has seen formidable challenges that are expected to continue well into 2021. This moment of social reckoning animates us to consider ways to reimagine relationships with peers, partners, constituents, and communities as we envision a more equitable and healthy future.

Organizational leaders can use their values-based communications as a guiding force to stabilize in the short term and lay a path for a strong, sustainable future. Now is the moment to commit to prioritizing your organizational values, reaffirming your current core values or adjusting them, and then doing what it takes to make sure they are clearly and consistently communicated. Taking this step now can be a critical component to bolster your organization’s internal and external stability, differentiation, and strength.

Interested in assessing your organization’s communications strategy? Fill out the form below to speak with a TCC Group representative about how your organization can leverage the Values-Based Communications Diagnostic Tool.

Diagnostic Sign-up Form

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