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Researched for you: Unit-Asking [Language Lab]

Language Lab[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]



What is Unit-Asking?

The One Thing You Need to Know: Ask donors how much they would give to help one individual and then ask how much they would give to help a larger number.

What works?

You’ve heard about the power of the Story of One. But have you heard of the Power of Unit-Asking? Here’s an example of how it works:

  • Start by telling the story of Monica, a struggling reader currently in fourth grader.
  • Describe in detail how their donation could turn Monica into a great reader through peer tutoring.
  • Ask how much they are willing to invest in Monica’s future.
  • Then explain that that Monica is not alone. She is one of many. (Describe how many.)
  • Then ask how much they are willing to invest in the futures of kids just like Monica.

That jump from one to many is called unit-asking. And it works like a charm.

What doesn’t work?

Telling the donor out of the gate that there are thousands of struggling readers. Nope, that makes the donor’s brain shut down because it sends the message that this problem is so big their donation won’t be able to make a dent.

Want more?

Here’s a cool inforgraphic on unit-asking and a link to the original research paper from whence the above info was gleaned. If you want help trying out unit-asking in your next appeal, just hit reply to this email.

Language Lab

Language Lab





I want to be smart by using research!  



Why research? Research is “the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.” Put another way: it’s intel on how to work happier, smarter, and more effectively.

But based on this survey from the Science of Philanthropy Initiative, only 20% of nonprofits had tested their fundraising efforts in the past year. Only 7% of organizations who responded to that survey “deliberately seek out scientific research studies for information regarding effective fundraising methods when designing their campaigns.”

So likely you’re not using research.

Why wouldn’t you (smart soul that you are) use research?

Based on the aforementioned survey, it would appear there are three main things standing between you and your ability to use research to increase your awesome factor.

  1. You’re not confident interpreting research.
  2. You don’t have the time.
  3. You don’t have the money.

So here’s the deal: Claxon is going to interpret the research for you, so no need to worry about that anymore. Whew!

Now all you have to do is sign up and join thousands of other smart people who are using research to make them smarter, happier, and more successful. (Sign up box is at the top of the page. Go for it.)


Language Lab Podcast





“I liked it! Short enough to fit into my day, but still contained valuable content. Thanks for sharing!”
Jacqueline Holman

“The Language Lab podcasts are excellent! Short and sweet and hit the mark of defining why the word is so hard to achieve in life! Thanks for the insights on learning our language.” Brian

These weekly lessons are designed to give you new, yet practical ways of thinking about language and life. They are purposefully short (around 3 minutes) so you can easily fit them into your busy, busy life.

Listen to the latest and greatest:

April 22, 2015: Birthday



 The Language Lab Library

4/15/15: Peregrination

4/8/15: Priority

4/1/15: Leaderly

3/25/15: Mediocre

3/11/15: Sorry

3/4/15: Gratitude

2/25/15: Confussled

2/18/15: Love(rize)

2/11/15: And

1/28/15: Vision/Mission

1/21/15: Awesome

1/14/15: A lot

1/7/15: Resolution

12/24/14: Happy

12/17/14: Frenetic

12/10/14: Joy

12/3/14:  Vulnerability

11/26/14: Thanksgiving

11/20/14: Disappointment

11/12/14: Funsies

11/5/14: Balance

10/29/14: Boring

10/22/14: Gratitude


“I love pictures and I love words. Listening to this podcast brought a smile and a chuckle and new learning! What’s not to love about that? And I get to hear from you again next week! Yes, sign me up!”
Catherine Bachy

“Thank you for the “balance” podcast today – it brightened my day and was refreshing. I forwarded it to about six friends so I hope some of them sign up (I did!) Thanks again.”

Vulnerable language. Fabulous life?

Claxon_Podcast_bubblesI recently read Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

Rocked. My. World.

That’s what I have to say about that book.

Like Brene, I’m not one who cozies up naturally to vulnerability. It often leads to pain and who wants that? Not me. But what I had failed to realize was the missed opportunities when we avoid being vulnerable. And it’s those opportunities, those moments, that make for a stupendously fabulous life.

My research on The Wordifier made it crystal clear that we are very conservative in our language usage. We’re all using the same words over and over and over again. There are lots of reasons for this, surely. But I believe one of them has to do with our willingness–or lack thereof–to put ourselves out there. To use words others aren’t using. To be linguistically bold and, therefore, vulnerable.

In this Language Lab podcast, I explain what I mean:


My challenge to you is to dare greatly when it comes to your words. Use words that others aren’t. The Wordifier can help guide you to some not oft used gems. Your words should be as awesome and unique as you are. Go for it!

Language Lab Podcast

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How do you motivate motivation?

[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]


The One Thing You Need to Know: Get out and meet people! Meeting someone who will benefit from your work will increase your perseverance, long-term motivation, and success.

Your Motivation Mojo

Motivation is elusive.

For instance, you get all pumped up to work out five days a week. It all starts off really well. You kickbox and yoga the heck out of your newly minted gym pass and jaunty workout gear, yes you do. Quite a week. Motivation mojo is in awesome mode.

Fast-forward to week three. It is 6AM. Your BodyCombat class starts in 30 minutes and rather than donning your workout gear, you stare lovingly at the snooze button…

Zap! Just like that, your motivation mojo goes missing.

This happens in all aspects of our lives. It’s one thing to lose your gym mojo. It’s another thing to lose your work mojo. Because in your line of work, when you lose your mojo, the people you serve lose out as well.

Want to know something magical? You can keep your motivation mojo motivated simply by meeting someone that your work benefits. This is true for you, your staff, your volunteers, your board–everyone. Indeed, this motivation trick works on everyone, regardless of their role.

Researchers did a series of experiments on people working in a fundraising organization. These folks raised money by working the phones. In the experiment, one group interacted briefly with a beneficiary. The other group read a letter from a beneficiary and talked about the letter amongst themselves, i.e. no contact.

Guess what? A month later, the group that read the letter saw basically no difference in persistence or job performance. However–and this is a BIG however–the group that interacted with the beneficiary showed way more persistence (142% more phone time) and job performance (171% more money raised).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although this research took place in a fundraising organization, the researchers were not thinking of this as advancing an understanding of fundraising. No, they were looking at it through the lens of organizational psychology and the importance of word design to increase task significance and thereby motivation and effectiveness. So, yes, it applies to fundraising. But the application is much broader and, therefore, more widely relevant.

Want more on motivation?

  1. Read the study, Impact and the Art of Motivation Maintenance, right here.
  2. If you find yourself needing the motivation to write, go meet a beneficiary, and then turn on Written Kitten. Right your little heart out!
  3. Try out a Pomodora Timer. (I am a big fan of the ‘Awwesome’ option. Go ahead, try it.)

Did you hear about the August 24th, FREE Words on a Mission Webinar we are hosting? You can sign up here.