August’s Word of the Month: HELP

Help is such a core part of our non-profit identity. So, how can we can possibly stop overusing this word? Read on to find out in our latest installment of Word of the Month.

“Help!” It’s what the non-profit sector is all about, right? We help the environment, we help children, we help the homeless. We ask folks to help us carry out our mission with support, donations, and volunteer hours.

With all this helping going on, I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn that according to our research, “help” is high on the charts of the most commonly-used word by non-profits. (Others include need, more, support, and please. Notice a trend?)

We also know that overused words don’t do anything for our mission. By using the same words that every other non-profit uses, our mission statements and other communications get lost in the abyss of overlooked messages.

This is why The Wordifier gives us the red light on the word “help”.

Nonetheless, many organizations continue to use this word, and use it heavily. Here are a few examples of mission statements I discovered by googling some well-known non-profits:

To help people worldwide where the need is greatest, delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from health care. – Doctors Without Borders

To alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities. – Mercy Corps

To help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. – March of Dimes

With helping being such a core part of our non-profit identity, you may wonder how we can possibly stop overusing this word and make our mission statements and other messaging more remarkable. What’s a non-profit to do?

Well, let’s start by looking back to help’s origins.

Not surprisingly, the word help dates back pretty far, stemming from the Old English helpan. At that point in time, it was exclusively a transitive verb, meaning it was required to have a direct object tied to it. For example, you couldn’t just helpan in general, you had to helpan something.

In the 13th century, this changed, and the intransitive use emerged, meaning to “offer aid or assistance”. Help moved out of the realm of an action-packed verb, and into more general, conceptual realm.

And this is my advice to non-profits: Think of help not as an action word, but as a concept. When you frame it that way, you’ll see that there are other words that will get your helping point across in a stronger way.

Luckily, The Wordifier offers alternatives to any given word that are not overused, and therefore will make your mission and messaging shine! Pay special attention to the words in green, as those are the least commonly used by non-profits. 

You’ll also notice that these words can pinpoint an exact action in a way that the generic “help” cannot. “Ease” has a much different meaning than “boost” or “amend”, yet all three can be used in place of a “help” depending on the context.

Here are a few examples of non-profits successfully replacing help with a more descriptive, yet similar word.

To defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. – ACLU

To connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. – Kiva

To create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and wellbeing of children. – Ronald McDonald House.

Take a stab at removing help from your own communications, and share your results with us @ClaxonMarketing. I hope this post enriched your view of non-profit word choice, and will upgrade your non-profit’s future messaging!

Want to upgrade your non-profit’s messaging even more? Check out our online training through Claxon University.

How Pitches Transformed My Nonprofit Marketing Career

In October of 2013, I uploaded my first YouTube video ever. The subject? A short, how-to video for nonprofits to pitch their cause at networking events.

Let’s back up a sec. Before the fall of 2013, the extent of my nonprofit experience was administrative. I had a passion to do good, but didn’t quite know how to do it. I was shy, lacked confidence in my skills, and dreaded conversations with strangers (and even acquaintances!)

I had just enrolled in the course Strategic Marketing for Nonprofits at Seattle University, where I was fortunate enough to meet Erica Mills, the instructor of the course and the brains behind Claxon Marketing. In just a few classes, she turned my passion-without-direction into confidence-with-passion.

How? By stressing the importance of pitches for nonprofits, while at the same time showing that not only are the not scary; with the right amount of preparation they can be downright fun, a bit liberating, and incredibly important to your cause. (And by pushing me out of my comfort zone to make this video 🙂 ) Since then, my path as a nonprofit marketer has been set, and I’ve been perfecting pitches (and other nonprofit marketing materials) ever since.

Caption: Screenshot from my YouTube debut.

Why am I telling you all this? Because you’re about to have the same opportunity I did. On July 26, 2017 at 1 p.m. ET, Erica will take to the web to present a one-hour free webinar all about creating the perfect pithy pitches for your cause.

For a bit more background into why pitches are paramount, let me describe a generic interaction, but one you have probably experienced firsthand:

Say you’re at a networking event (or party, or fundraiser, or wherever you typically meet new people) and someone asks the inevitable question, “What do you do?”

You don’t know this person, or what their interests are. They have the potential to be your nonprofit’s next big donor, small monthly donor, or volunteer. Or even your next boss.

Will your response to their question spark their underlying interest in your cause, inviting them to ask more questions and get involved? Or will it make them pretend they need to refill their drink two minutes after your explanation of your work?

Good pitches are rare. Unless you take the time to fix them up.

In the upcoming, not-to-miss webinar, you’ll:

  • Hear more examples of why pitches are so important
  • Learn what a pitch really is (it’s not what you think)
  • Find out why your pitch(es) are probably bad
  • Get to know the five top “pitchfalls”
  • Learn how to perfect your pitch, and in turn get people curious about your cause and start raising more money.

Don’t miss your chance to be transformed (like I was!). 

Sign Up

 

New (lower) price for Claxon U!

The Punch Line

The price for Claxon University’s on-line training–Words on a Mission–is now $425 if you pay up-front, or $40/month for 12 months.

The Rationale

We created Words on a Mission because we wanted as many non-profits, do-gooders, and mission-motivated trailblazers as possible to be able to learn how to create remarkable messaging.

We did it so communications conundrums could become a thing of the past.

We did it because we know that effective communications leads to engagement.

To more funds, and awareness, and good in the world.

That’s why we did it.

Claxon U “students” have knocked it out of the park when it comes to getting results. Totally awe-inspiring what they’ve accomplished.

We want those results for absolutely everyone. We want them for you.

But recently we had one of those moments. A moment when you realize if you’re going to achieve your vision, you need to course correct to get there.

At $949, Words on a Mission seemed fairly reasonably priced. It’s about $25,000 worth of consulting all wrapped up in a self-paced on-line training that anyone can do. Nifty.

But recently we did a webinar with Vu Le and the topic of professional development came up. We asked participants how much budget they had for professional development. We knew it wasn’t going to be much and–wowee– it is not a lot.

$949 isn’t doable, even for mid-size organizations. So we decided to do something about that.

We sat ourselves down and said, “If the goal is to get this into the hands of as many people as possible, how low can we go and not lose money?”

$425. That’s how low we can go.

So that’s the new price. $425 up front, or $40 per month for 12 months.

We had to trim down a few things to make this price doable. For instance, we’re no longer going to do on-line office hours. But you’ll still be able to ask questions via the private Facebook group, so you won’t ever be stuck and not have the support you need. We got your back.

If you’ve been on the fence about doing this training, hop off the fence and into the land of communications awesomeness! You know you’ve got it in you. We believe in you.

Let’s do this thing!

July Word of the Month: Remarkable

This is the latest installment in our “Word of the Month” series to help non-profits make intentional language choices (while indulging our own word nerdery). Up this month? Remarkable.

A few months ago, we explained why we love the word remarkable so darn much. So much, in fact, that we’re happy to leave “awesome” in the dust for this striking and incredible word (that basically means striking and incredible! How about that?)

We’re guessing that you think your non-profit’s cause is pretty remarkable. Yet,1 you also likely continue to use the same stock of words, such as “awesome” and “great”. We looked to the Wordifier to show us how all of these words stack up:

The word remarkable stems from the French remarquer which means, “to take note of” or “worthy of notice”. Definitely something we all wish folks would do with our cause!

Okay, so now that we know why remarkable is so remarkable, what other words fall into this category?

Again, we turned to the Wordifier to advise us. (By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the Wordifier and why it’s a remarkable tool for choosing your non-profit’s words, check out this post). And since verbs are the superheroes of our sentences, let’s start there.

Here are a few remarkable verbs that the Wordifier gives us the green light on. I’ve bolded my personal favorites 🙂

Accelerate, activate, alleviate, anchor, broaden, collaborate, complement, confront, cultivate, deepen, defend, delight, elevate, eradicate, generate, ignite, illustrate, mobilize, motivate, nurture, rally, relieve, remedy, revitalize, shield, stabilize, steward, sustain, unite, uphold.

And here are some adjectives to spruce up your sentences:

Adept, apathetic, brilliant, colossal, deafening, diligent, disillusioned, endless, fierce, gentle, hopeful, hushed, illustrious, immense, lively, nimble, remarkable, rapid, resonant, somber, splendid, striking, swift, vigorous, zealous.

As you can probably tell from reading these words, they are not your standard, run-of-the-mills “awesomes” and “greats”. Each of these words paints a picture, gives a concrete feeling, and most importantly, are not overused by non-profits.

What are your favorite remarkable words? Tweet to us @ClaxonMarketing.

Words, Words, Words! Introducing Claxon’s “Word of the Month”

At Claxon, we embrace our word nerdery proudly. That’s because, like you, we know the importance of choosing the right words. One word can mean the difference between getting noticed and getting overlooked.

We love words so much, we create tools and resources such as The Wordifier so nonprofits can make their messaging remarkable.

We also love diving deep into a particular word to find out its history, its evolution, and its level of remarkable-ness. And we love sharing what we’ve uncovered so that you can make informed word choices for your cause.

That’s why we’re launching a Word of the Month series!

Each month, we’ll choose a word that’s commonly found in nonprofit communications, or a word we feel is underutilized by nonprofits. We’ll explain where the word comes from, how often it’s used, and what to watch for when determining whether or not to use it in your communications.

To kick off this series, we’re starting with the one word I’ve used more than any other in this post thus far. We’re getting a little silly, as well as a little meta. Have a guess?

This month’s word is “word”.

Before beginning to research the word “word”, I made the assumption that its origins would date back pretty far. As soon as we started having elements of speech to describe objects, actions, and ideas, it would follow naturally that we have a way to describe these speech elements themselves, right?

Yep. Turns out, the word “word” has been in use since basically the dawn of the English language, when “Old English” was spoken. It’s from the Proto-Germanic “wurdan”. (Don’t worry, I didn’t know what Proto-Germanic was either.)

Here’s the coolest thing I found out: In its original Old English, it also had an additional implication: a promise. There’s something beautiful, if not a bit intimidating, about a word being a promise. (Maybe this is where the phrase “as good as your word” stems from?)

There are many variations on “word” that arose much more recently. “Wordsmith”, for example, popped up in 1896, and “buzzword” came around in 1946, thought to be originated from Harvard students’ slang for the most important words in their lectures or readings.

And unlike a lot of other words whose popularity ebbs and flows over time, “word” has stayed pretty consistent in its frequency of use. No surprise there!

Even though this month’s Word of the Month is more of a playful announcement than a word your nonprofit actually needs to be conscious of, we decided to run it through The Wordifer to see what would happen.

Turns out, a majority of uses of this word are from religious organizations. This totally makes sense. (Think: “The Word of God”).

Thanks for joining us in having a bit of fun with the word “word”! Check in next month when we explore a word that can either boost your nonprofit messaging’s remarkable-ness, or bring you down to the land of the overlooked.

Leadership Revelation

Cat clearly sees its own way. Clearly.

Recently, I had a revelation. It came by happenstance. I was doing research for a piece I’m working on about the Language of Leadership (more on that in a later post).  At some point, I realized I hadn’t defined leadership. It means so many things to so many people, clearly defining was important.

Since the origins of a word give so much darn insight into its true–and/or most useful–meaning, I did some serious online foraging on the etymology of the word “leadership”.

What I learned stunned me.

Etymologically speaking, leadership means: to see one’s own way.

Whhhhhaaaaaat? The origin of the meaning of the word leadership has nothing to do with other people. Leading them, inspiring them, managing them. Nothing. Aside from the leader themself, there’s nary another person to be found in the definition.

Mind blown, right? Least mine was. I’ve been ruminating on this ever since.

The idea of leadership being about other people is, in fact, quite modern. Yet that modern definition  has taken root with great force. Leadership has become synonymous with leading others. It implies that one has followers.

This modern definition begs a question: if you can’t see your own way clearly, how can you lead others effectively?

 

Remarkableness

subject lines, standing out, donors

Remarkable how that red pencil stands out, isn’t it?

The word awesomeness is used quite liberally these days. As a fan of the word awesome, I’m happy about this trend.

But what about remarkableness? 

When you hear the word ‘remarkable’, you might think of it as meaning striking or incredible or something along those lines. And you’d be right!

But striking and incredible to what end? It’s the “so what” part of the equation that matters in terms of getting more people more deeply engaged in your work.

Remarkable means “worthy of attention”. Or, as Seth Godin puts it so straight-forwardly, something worthy of remarking upon.

Your messaging needs to help people remark upon your remarkable work. That means it needs to be: concise, compelling, and–therefore and importantly–repeatable.

Remarkable messaging is remarkable because it gets people talking.

That’s why at Claxon, we teach you how to create remarkable messaging. Not awesome. Or amazing. Or strong. Or jazzy. But remarkable. Because we want to get hundreds or even thousands of people talking about your remarkableness–your work, your vision, your mission. The words need to match the work.

Unfortunately, Claxon’s research suggest that if you work for a nonprofit, your messaging likely isn’t remarkable. Likely, it’s kinda, well, lame. <insert big, sad sigh>

A quick, easy way to de-lame-ify your messaging is to use words that get the green light from the Wordifier. (The word remarkable gets the green light, by the way.)

Green-light words aren’t used by very many nonprofits, meaning they’re novel. Novelty lights up the brain. And a lit up brain means someone is paying attention to whatever lit it up. If you’re the one who lit it up, that’s you!

Nonprofits, foundations, and social enterprises have a whole lot of remarkableness going on. Simply by using remarkable words, you can expand the impact of that work even further. Remarkable!

***Want remarkable messaging? Claxon is here to help. Through consulting, speaking, and Claxon University, we can teach you loads of ways to create messaging as remarkable as your work.***

 

Vu Le & a Free Webinar

Vu Le & Erica Mills immediately after eating way too much vegan Thai food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are you doing on Wednesday, April 26 at 2pm Pacific? I ask because I’m going to be having a candid conversation with the one and only (and very hilarious) Vu Le and I’d love for you to join us.

In case you’ve been buried under a rock in the hinterlands of Siberia, Vu is one of the brightest stars in the nonprofit sector these days.

His blog–Nonprofit with Balls–is a must-read for everyone in the social sector. He’s the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps where they are on a mission to promote social justice by cultivating leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.

Not that any of my webinars are scripted (as you likely know, me and scripts get along as well as me and podiums, which is to say not well at all…scripts and podiums make me feel hemmed in…eek!), but this one will be particularly free-ranging. In a good way.

 

You will likely hear us talk about:

  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion…not just lip service
  • Using language to build trust
  • Hummus and unicorns and martinis
  • Grantee/grantmaker power dynamics
  • Capacity building: doing it and funding it

And a bunch of other stuff.

What I appreciate so much about Vu is his ability to infuse heady topics with belly laughter. Pure genius and goodness.

So sign yourself up. Then when the day/time arrive, kick back with your favorite mid-afternoon beverage and be prepared to laugh and learn.

Sign Up
 

Philanthropy & Toothpaste: a Free Webinar

Did you know that 71% of non-profit client needs go unmet? 71%. Ugh.

Meanwhile, individual giving has been stuck at ~2% of GDP since we put a  man on the moon. And it looks like government funding might be withering.

To review: we’ve got huge unmet demand and not enough funding. #NotGood

What gives? There you are, doing your amazingly awesome work and yet people aren’t flocking to support it. You can’t meet demand because of lack of supply.  Seems weird, doesn’t it?

Actually, it’s not that weird. Unlike toothpaste which when you run out of it, you quick-like buy some more because, ewwwwww, if you don’t.

No, philanthropy isn’t like toothpaste at all. People may notice that we have some Massive Social Problems That Seriously Need Addressing. But they don’t have to do anything about them. We’re a nice-to-think-about/do-something-about, not a must-buy-right-now-or-I’ll-creep-out-my-coworkers. That means we have to work even harder to get someone’s attention. It’s a very high bar indeed.

How can you–amazing, awesome person doing amazing, awesome work–hit that high attention-grabbing, engagement-inspiring bar?

This is exactly the question we’re going to tackle in this month’s free webinar. Because let’s get real: non-profits are being asked to do more and more with less and less. It’s not sustainable and we have to do something about it.

Will clear, concise, compelling communications solve all of the world’s problems? No. Not by a long shot. But bloated, convoluted communications aren’t helping our cause and we CAN fix that. So let’s do. Let’s get your words on a mission. Stat.

Words on a Mission: Mini-Course
March 30, 1Pm Pacific

Sign Up

Bust a Move with a Sexy Mission Statement

 

Just. So. Good. That’s what I have to say about #nonprofitpickuplines, the hashtag that Vu Le introduced us to some years ago and (blessedly) revived for Valentine’s Day 2017.

Thanks to #nonprofitpickuplines, I spent V Day toggling between the clever goodness abounding in my Twitter stream and prepping for a webinar I was going to do on mission statement make-overs (more on that in a sec).

Then a sad, sad thought occurred to me: if nonprofit pickup lines really were that hilarious, we’d likely have way more people getting in on the philanthropy action.

But nonprofits don’t use clever pick up lines to get the convo started, do they? Nooooooo. Instead, they use their mission statements. Or some version of their mission statement that EDs, board members, program folks, fundraisers, etc can actually remember and, therefore, blurt out when the long anticipated moment arrives when someone (maybe a potential donor….deep breaths) finally asks you, “So, what does your organization do?”

Your response needs to be titillating. You’ve got seven precious, fleeting seconds to woo them. To snag them. To hook them. To get them to lean in and say, “Tell me more,” in a way that clearly indicates they will become a major donor. Clearly.

Individual giving as a percent of GDP has been stuck since smoking while making dinner was considered appropriate. Clearly, our mission statement pick-up lines aren’t working.

Really, you’ve got two options:

  1. Keep using that drab mission statement as your go-to pick-up line, thus leaving money and support on the cocktail table.
  2. Come up with a sexier mission statement.

By sexy, I mean one that:

  1. Is clear, concise, and repeatable.
  2. Has a superhero verb.
  3. Is free of jargon.
  4. Clearly communicates what you do and for whom.
  5. Gets people to ask questions.

If you want a sexy, more remarkable, more lean-in inspiring mission statement, listen to the webinar I did yesterday. (Tuning in with a glass of wine or whiskey in hand and candles burning seems only appropriate. But no mood music cuz then you can’t hear the webinar.)

 

*****

Readability Stats: Ease: 63.2, Grade: 7.3