FREE WEBINAR: Put your Words on a Mission

Claxon University is hosting our first-ever FREE webinar on August 24 at 1pm PST. Will you join me? I’d love that.

If you’ll be on vacation that day, don’t sweat it. Enjoy it! Sign up today, and you can listen to the recording when you’re back…refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to get your communications in tip-top shape.

Now, what will you learn in this webinar that you might not already know?

  • The biggest messaging mistakes I see nonprofits make again and again. And then I’m going to tell you how to avoid and/or fix them.
  • How to make simple tweaks to your writing that’ll make people go, “Woah, wait. What are you doing? I want in on that!”
  • How to get into the minds, and hearts, of your most important audiences. Think donors and staff and board members and volunteers. (And then think about donors again because, well, they’re important.)
  • Etc, etc, etc.

This won’t be an “oh let me just turn this on and listen in the background” webinar. This is going to be a “oh let me have both hands free so I can take copious notes” type of thing. There will be time for Q&A, so you will also be able to get your burning questions answered on the spot.

Whether you join me live on August 24 at 1pm PST, or via recording post-vacay, I really encourage you to sign up for this webinar. It’s free. So pretty much a no-risk proposition. And you’ll learn a ton. The Claxon Team has continued to do research, and find out new things, and by August 24, we’ll be ready to share all our newfound knowledge with YOU.

 

Announcing…Fall Quarter at Claxon University!

ClaxonU_LogoAll sorts of excited to announce that registration is now open for Fall Quarter at Claxon University!

Wait. What?

You haven’t heard of Claxon University?! Well, let’s get that sorted out right here and now.

Claxon University is where all the cool kids are going to learn how to create compelling communications. (Cool kids like these Claxon U graduates from Yakima Valley. Um, how cool are they? Super cool.)

Claxon University is all on-line. All at your pace. So you decide when and where you’d like to learn (thank you very much).

Why would you, a busy professional with plenty on their plate, take the time to do this class? Because you’re worth it. L’Oreal ad reference aside, you really are worth it.

You work hard, hard, hard every single day. You want to do the very best job you can. Every once in a while, that means honing some mad skillz you already have. And learning some new ones.

So here’s what I want you to do: take a out piece of paper and a pencil (or pen or whatever, but something).

Then write this down: September 12.

Because that’s “Time to Invest in Me” Day, aka the launch of Fall Quarter. That day, you’re going to get together (on-line) with other badasses who are ready to become communications ninjas. Fundraisers who are ready to rock their year-end appeals. People who are ready to unleash their inner awesome.

All the details are right here. The features of the program. The benefits. The dates. The times. All right here.

If you know Claxon, you know how deeply and passionately we care about teaching people how to use words to make the world a better place. Claxon University is no different. It’s all our best thinking, teaching, learning, and doing. All on-line. For one very low price. Check it out.

Because, seriously. You’re worth it.

[Wondering what’s up with all the bolding and italicizing? It’s my way of reinforcing what Claxon U is all about–you, you, fabulous you!]

Do Happy Salmon Make for Good Messaging?

Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Assoc LogoUntil the other day, I hadn’t thought much about happy salmon.

But that all changed when Adrian Shulock, who works for the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, sent me a delightful email.

After reading my SSIR article on how to spruce up your mission statement, Adrian shared a bit about their mission and the statement that explains it. What I learned was so happy-making, I asked if I could share it publicly. Lucky for us, he said yes!

To be clear: The following is not meant to imply that NSEA should officially change its mission statement. I’m not recommending they edit their by-laws, etc. It is, instead, offered as an objective take at how effectively their mission statement engages those new to the organization. It is food (or chum…couldn’t resist) for thought.

Okay, let’s start by looking at NSEA’s current mission statement. This statement appears loud and proud on their homepage. Its starring role means its job is to make visitors go, “Ohhhh, that’s cool. Tell me more!” Inspiring them to voraciously click their way through the site to learn more.

NSEA is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring sustainable wild salmon runs in Whatcom county.

In the plus column for this statement? They focus on ONE THING–restoring sustainable wild salmon runs in Whatcom County. No laundry list here. Huge kudos for that.

In the minus column: the Reading Ease Score on this statement is, alas, zero, meaning it’s almost impossible to understand what they’re saying. People rarely ask questions about things they totally can’t understand (too daunting, they feel dumb). So it’s a conversation-stopper, rather than a conversation-starter.

Also, according to the Wordifier, the statement is packed with words popular with other nonprofits, lowering the chances that it will pique people’s interest. Bummer.

Adrian noticed that the mission statement didn’t exactly blow people’s hair back. So, when people ask what NSEA does, Adrian now says:

NSEA fixes broken creeks so that salmon – and you – can live happy.

This response scores a whopping 81.8 for Reading Ease! This statement does have a few words popular with nonprofits in general. BUT the way in which Adrian combines them makes them interesting. What does a happy salmon look like? How do happy salmon make my life happier? How do you fix broken creeks? All intriguing questions that would propel the conversation forward. Which is exactly what we want.

Again, I’m not necessarily suggesting NSEA  officially change its mission statement. That’s a Big Deal that warrants Much Deep Thought & Analysis. I am, however, suggesting that they figure out how engaging their mission statement really is to supporters who would want to fix broken creeks so salmon–and people–can live happy.

For more tips on writing a mission statement that’s as great as your mission, check out this SSIR article. It’s a quick, practical read.

Need help making your communications as awesome as possible? We’re here for you.

Post Readability Stats: Reading Ease 59.7, Grade Level 7.8

 

5 words that may be wrecking your year-end fundraising

You may very well be so tired of futzing with your year-end fundraising missives that the thought of even one more tweak makes you break out in hives. BUT if you can muster it, I’d highly encourage you check out this infographic from GrammarCheck.

If you can work up to nothing else, scan your communications for the word ‘very’. Very is unnecessary. Avail yourself of the wonderful list of alternatives at the bottom of the infographic!

Brand Statement Re-Do: Alternatives for the Seattle Public Library

Seattle Public Library, brandingAfter writing this post on the Seattle Public Library’s rebranding fiasco, I asked my graduate students at the University of Washington to take a pass at revamping the Library’s Brand Statement…with one catch. They had to use the criteria I recommend nonprofits use for their Mission Statements:

  1. Pick your verb first.
  2. Don’t use the verb ‘provide’.
  3. 10 words or less (up to 15 if you have to).
  4. Reading Ease Score over 50% and Grade Level under 8, excluding the name.

For reference, here’s the Brand Statement that library patrons were asked to evaluate in the survey sent out at the tail-end of the Library’s rebranding effort:

The Library provides access to knowledge, experiences and learning for all. We preserve and create opportunities for the people of Seattle who make it such a dynamic and desirable place to live. When we’re empowered as individuals, we become STRONGER TOGETHER

They worked in groups and had 15 minutes to complete the task. Here’s what they came up with:

  • We welcome everyone with a space to gain knowledge and access to resources. [70/8.2]
  • We foster an inclusive space to learn, explore, and grow. [78.2/4.8]
  • We connect you to the ideas and information you need to engage in civic life. [73.2/7.1]
  • We open doors to knowledge and opportunities for the people of Seattle. [53/8.8]
  • Through access to knowledge and experience, we strengthen Seattle. [56/7.6]
  • We cultivate knowledge and learning experiences for all Seattle residents. [35.9/14.5]
  • Your library connects Seattle to knowledge, ideas, and opportunities. [41.3/10]

After each team put their submission up on the board, each student got to vote for which one most resonated with them. The first two on the list above were the winners.

I thought it was interesting that both used the word “space”. I asked them if that accurately reflected today’s Library, given how many people avail themselves of the Library’s offerings without ever setting foot in an actual library, i.e. online. One student pointed out that space doesn’t necessarily have to mean a physical space. It could be a broader definition of space. The space, wherever someone was, to learn and read and grow, whether that’s on-line or in-person. Interesting point.

The following week, I did a similar exercise with nonprofit leaders who came to a training I did called Mission Statements & More, sponsored by Washington Nonprofits. This group didn’t have to get the Reading Ease Scores because we were in a spot that had no access to the Internet and no bars on phones (gasp!).

Here’s what they came up with (transcribed verbatim):

  • The Library brings the world to your fingertips.
  • The Seattle Libraries engage our community through education and imagination.
  • The library connects us to the world. SPL. Your access to a world of knowledge, creativity, and experiences.
  • Seattle Libraries empowers us through access to knowledge in a dynamic community.
  • Transporting Seattle through film, computers, and story – your Seattle Public Library.
  • Inspiring people to explore the vast learning resources available.
  • Explore the world through history, learning, and making connections.
  • Seattle Libraries encourage community knowledge and experiences by learning together.
  • Seattle Libraries nurture community knowledge, experience, and learning.
  • Empower individuals to become stronger together. The Library.
  • The Seattle library empowers individuals to experience learning in a modern, dynamic environment.
  • Accessible (free) learning experiences for the community.
  • Gaining access to knowledge, experiences, and learning to empower individuals.

Some of these are more taglines than Mission Statements (in that taglines aren’t always full sentences). But still. Good work for 15 minutes!

Coming up with a 10 word statement that communicates the essence of what an organization wants to be known for isn’t easy. One of the most common traps nonprofits get caught up in is over-thinking it all. “If we say this and not that, people won’t understand what we’re about! We need to say it all!!!”

That’s why mapping your messaging to an Engagement Cycle is so handy–and effective. It releases you from feeling like you have to shove everything into one sentence. And liberates you to think about the bigger story you want to share, and how you can parse that out so it’s easily digestible.

I’m not saying any of the statements above are spot-on for the Library. Without being privy to their What (goals and objectives) and Who (their target audience), we’re not in a position to definitively comment on a How (in this case, messaging). But it’s interesting to see how some library lovers who weren’t part of process would communicate what they perceive the essence of the Library to be. Especially interesting when they’re only given 15 minutes to complete the task.

Post Readability Stats: Reading Ease 55, Grade Level 8.6

***Claxon University–where smart nonprofits learn to use better words to create a better world.***