You talkin’ to me?

We all know that every mission, in order to succeed, needs its supporters. And to get supporters you have to talk about what you do – you need to make people care so they fund your work, donate their time, tell their friends.  You also need to explain how what you do impacts them (their community, their faith, their sense of justice, etc.). So there’s them, and there’s you…sometimes there’s us. There always seem to be plenty of pronouns.

The key to pronoun awesomeness: when you talk about your mission, pick your pronouns with intention.

“You” versus “we”

I’ve been known to get a little opinionated about the tendency for well-meaning organizations and people to talk about themselves too much (also known as PITCHFALL #2). Whether on your website, in emails or in face-to-face conversations, sometimes the enthusiasm for your mission can lead to a lot of “I” and “we”, when a little more “you” is called for. You…it’s the cowbell of pronouns.

“We” versus “we”

Sometimes, “we” means you and your organization, sometimes it means you, your organization and your reader. It’s the difference between “we’re working to eradicate polio” and “we can eradicate polio in the next decade”.  Which one you choose– and choose you must– depends on to whom and when you are communicating. Talking to fans and current supporters? Include them in your “we”. But before that, it’s a little like talking about the wedding before you’ve had a second date.

I’m not suggesting there’s a set of rules for selecting the appropriate pronoun in any given communication situation. I am suggesting that a little less willy-nilly pronoun usage and a little more intention picking the ones that work best would go a long way.

For a little pronoun fun, and possibly a childhood flashback, allow me to introduce Albert Andreas Armadillo:

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  1. […] You can’t read a non-profit blog or newsletter without tripping over commentary on trends…online giving is up, but gift growth rate is down overall, social enterprise is on the rise, etcetera. Maybe I’m waxing optimistic, but I’ve been thinking about the trends we’d like to see. You know aspirational stuff. And for a word nerd like me, that means things like communicators choosing their words with greater intention. […]

  2. […] web page, a blog post—that includes variations on your verbiage. Test out your verbs and your pronouns. Try out pitches developed by team members. For each one that you want to track, find a relevant […]

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