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

 

Stand Out: How to find your breakthrough idea [book review]

Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark is an inspiration. Insightful. No-nonsense. Encouraging. Prolific. (Does she sleep?!)

Her work is extremely relevant to those of us in the non-profit sector. The opening to her most recent book, “Stand Out: how to find your breakthrough idea” says it all:

“You have something to say to the world. You have a contribution to make.”

Indeed you do! You’re on a mission to make the world better, brighter, safer, kinder. More sustainable and equitable. Heck yeah you’ve got a contribution to make. You’re making one every day.

Dorie goes on to say:

“Yet too many of us shrink back when it comes to finding and sharing our ideas with the world.”

She kind of nailed it on the head there, didn’t she?

As non-profit and philanthropic leaders, we have been trained to not “toot our own horns”. To not draw attention to our work. To put away our soapboxes and megaphones. And, to some extent, that makes sense. It’s not about us. It’s about our mission, our work, the people we serve.

But here’s the thing: if you don’t share your ideas for how to make the world a better place, no one will know about them.

Now, I’m not a betting gal, but I’d lay money on the table that you have some good ideas about how we might do things better. Those ideas would mean fewer kids on the streets, more people fed, more acres of land protected, healthier communities, happier people, etc., etc., etc.

So I’d like to encourage you to 1) read Dorie’s book because it’s great and inspiring, and 2) to reframe how you think about “tooting your own horn”. There’s a big difference between tooting your horn and putting a breakthrough idea out into the world, especially if that idea will make the world a better place. Then you’re kind of obligated to put it out to the world. Keeping it to yourself would be downright selfish. (How’s that for a reframe?)

What’s your breakthrough idea for making the world a better place?

 

What Non-profits Can Learn from Airbnb

The Why Behind Starting with “The Why”

If you’re anything like me, when you hear someone say that non-profits need to “operate more like businesses,” you have a lot of opinions. Um, yes, maybe if we had the resources of the business sector. Maybe if we weren’t chastised for spending money on operating costs, including competitive salaries, etc. etc. Maybe if we could, in fact, move from the Overhead Myth to an Overhead Solution.

I could rant all day.

However, when Sarah, our Director of Partnerships, came across this Fortune article about Airbnb, she knew there was at least one important takeaway for non-profits. If you watch the video that accompanies the article, you’ll see this takeaway phrased as such:

Internal Mission Can Also Be External Tagline

If you find that wording confusing, you’re not alone. Let’s breakdown what it actually means.

Define your organization’s purpose in a way that resonates with everyone: staff, volunteers, clients, customers, etc.

What’s a purpose, though?

Your purpose is akin to your mission statement. My favorite way of saying it is that your purpose is your why. It’s the reason you exist. In Airbnb’s case, they realized their purpose was, “To make people around the world feel like they could belong anywhere.” In this famous TED Talk, Simon Sinek explains how this formula-of-purpose has worked wonders for Apple.

Let’s look at an example from the non-profit world: Feeding America. Prior to 2008, the now well-known organization was known as “America’s Second Harvest”.

While testing the two names, they found that the new name, Feeding America, performed much better. Why? According to the mastermind behind the move, it “…may be because the name simply describes what the organization does and requires no explanation.” Ah, clarity!

While the purpose of your organization doesn’t have to actually become the name of your organization (although it could, :: hint hint::), it really should play the starring role.

After the “why”

So, what happens once you’ve defined your why? Once you’ve found and articulated your purpose, every other decision you make should be based on it. The programming you pursue, the tone you take in your communications, even the staff you hire.

In Airbnb’s case, in addition to seemingly broadcasting their tagline/ purpose everywhere, they also made intentional moves to live out their purpose. For example, they set up a support network, including a blog and online community, that Airbnb hosts to learn how to do small things to make guests feel more welcome.

For non-profits, it could be the creation of a brand positioning statement that all staff have at their fingertips. (Be sure to avoid the mistakes the Seattle Public Library made when creating their brand statement.) It could include certain changes, ranging from a revamp of your mission statement to a full re-branding, as with Feeding America. It’s also the jumping off point for The Claxon Method.

The Claxon Method

In order to actually start getting things done, there are other important questions to ask after your “why”. The Claxon Method is a process that consists of the next three questions to ask yourself after you’ve defined your purpose. Note: They must be followed in this order!

  1. WHAT does success look like?
  2. WHO do we need to reach in order to be successful?
  3. HOW are we going to reach our ideal supporters?

If you think about it, it’s incredibly logical. How do you know the best communications or outreach methods if you haven’t defined who you actually want to reach?

Learn more about the Claxon Method here.

So, non-profits, get out there and define your why. Then, on to the what, who, and, finally, how!

Want more ways to master your non-profit’s purpose and overall brand? Reserve your spot for this free webinar, happening on January 25, 2017!

Personal Branding & Cute Little Cows

Moooooooooooooooo.

That’s what I hear in my mind when I hear the word “branding”. Cows. Wandering around the pasture. Chewing their cud. Staring off into middle distance.

They’re cute, aren’t they?

But branding isn’t about cows at all. (Yes, cows are branded, poor little things. But we’re not talking about that. Ouch!)

Personal branding is about putting your unique stamp on the world. It’s about figuring out who you are at your core. What your values are. What your personality is. What you stand for. And then infusing that throughout your personal and professional lives.

Personal branding isn’t particularly complicated. But if you’re someone driven by mission–someone like you–it’s a liiiiiiiiitle more complicated because of the whole aligning your personal values with those of the organizations for which you work.

Just like an organization or a company, you already have a brand. But are you managing it well? That’s the question. And that’s what we’re going to tackle in this month’s free webinar.

Specifically, we’ll cover:

  • Why you should actively care about your personal brand (Hint: It has to do with being happier and more successful.)
  • A super practical way to define your personal brand.
  • What your words say about your personal brand.
  • How the narrative, visual, and experiential aspects of your brand work together… and what bad things happen when they don’t.
  • How to be true to your personal brand in different contexts, including at work.

Here are the details. Hope you’ll join me! (If you can’t join live but are interested in the topic, register anyway and you’ll auto-magically get the recording.)

January 25, 2017
1-2pm Pacific


Do More Good in 2017 with These 6 Communication Tips

In 2014, I first joined Claxon as an eager intern. And last month, much to my delight, I rejoined the team to help non-profit rockstars improve their writing and communication skills.

During my time away from Claxon, I always tried to keep informed of what Erica and her awesome team of word nerds were talking about. Yet, I still missed some incredible advice. And if I missed it, then you may have too!

So, in honor of the fast-approaching New Year, I’ve compiled what I believe to be super valuable advice from the Claxon team. These blog posts, all published in 2016, will help you usher in the New Year right – with mad skills. The coolest part? Each post offers one easy-to-implement tip, so you can boost your communication competence right now.

Whether you’re looking to increase donations, tell a better story, or simply do more good, these posts will get you well on your way to reaching those 2017 non-profit communication goals.

So, pour yourself another cup of hot chocolate, get cozy, and read up!

  1. Should You Ask People to Help or Give?
    One little word can get more supporters actively on board for your cause.
  2. Nonprofit vs. Non-Profit: Does a Hyphen Make a Difference?
    Hint: Yes, it does.
  3. Raising Awareness isn’t a Goal
    Time to get specific about what you want your non-profit’s communication team to achieve.
  4. The Story of One. And Only One.
    Storytelling advice: Don’t overwhelm your potential supporters.
  5. Researched For You: Unit-Asking
    Once you’ve mastered the story of one, here’s how to scale it.

    Any finally…
  6. Don’t Be a Fraud
    Did you know your language choices can make or break your perceived trustworthiness?

On behalf of all of us here at Claxon, I wish you a happy, knowledge-filled New Year!

Announcing: Personal Branding, The Non-profit Edition [Webinar]

While we’re running around making sure our non-profit’s image stays in check, it’s easy to forget about something a bit more personal. I’ll give you a hint. It’s something Kim Kardashian has mastered, and arguably, made millions of $$ from doing so well.

I’m talking about creating a solid personal brand, and whether you know it or not, you have one. You may scoff: I’m not even 100% sure what a “personal brand” is, how can I have one?

Do a google search of your name (with your organization/ location, if you have a Jenn Jones-type of name.) What comes up? This is part of your personal brand. What does your cover photo look like on Twitter? What expression are you donning in your LinkedIn profile photo? These are also part of your personal brand.

It applies offline, too. What do your coworkers think when they think of [insert your name here]?

The good news? You’re not powerless when it comes to defining your personal brand. With just a little care, your personal brand can help you achieve your goals and be your happiest, most fulfilled self. If you’re in a public-facing role at your non-profit, it can also help you achieve your non-profit’s goals.

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve got your back here at Claxon. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to find the inner rock star we both know is inside of you. That’s why we’re offering a free webinar all about personal branding. And we’re doing it exclusively for non-profit professionals such as yourself.

When: January 25, 2017, 1-2 p.m PT/ 4-5 p.m. ET/ 3-4 p.m CT


Presented by: Erica Mills, Claxon’s CEO


Who Should Attend: Non-profit executive directors, communications staff, and other non-profit professionals who are either new to personal branding, or want to improve their personal brand.


What You’ll Learn:

  • Why you should actively care about your personal brand.
  • A super practical way to define your personal brand.
  • What your words say about your personal brand.
  • How the narrative, visual, and experiential aspects of your brand work together…and what bad things happen when they don’t.
  • How to be true to your personal brand in different contexts, including at work.

If you want 2017 to be a ridiculously successful year for you, join us for this webinar. By the end, Kim Kardashian will have nothing on you!

Disclaimer: We’re not necessarily huge fans of Kim Kardashian. In fact, we have some issues with her, to be honest. But the girl has nailed the personal branding thing. Plus, for better or worse, you likely know who she is. So we can reference her and most everyone will get the reference, which is harder to do than you might think.

I want to register!

Resource Roundup: 7 Tools to Boost Your Writing Skills in 2017

Last week, I asked for new skills in the new year. This week, I figured I’d share what I already know with you, because #sharingiscaring. I’ve rounded up the best word-a-rific resources I’ve discovered — or rediscovered — in 2016. Enjoy!

  1. Your Essential Proofreading Checklist – Proofreading means so much more than catching typos. Especially when you go from writing in your own voice to the voice of your non-profit. You have to start thinking about things such as brand consistency, tone, and flow. So that we don’t feel too overwhelmed to even start, Hubspot put together this handy checklist.
  2. Readability Calculator – Sounding erudite is overrated. People want content that they can digest quickly, usually by skimming. Don’t believe me? Check out these stats. But that doesn’t mean hope is gone for your carefully-crafted content to be read and enjoyed. Use a readability scoring tool to make sure you can be understood on the quick — and by everyone.
  3. The Thesaurus – Yes, this may seem obvious. But trust me, it’s not. Too many times, I’ve heard the adage, if you need to use a thesaurus, then your word is too complicated — or something like that. And I couldn’t disagree more. Just because a word isn’t on the tip of our tongues doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice. We already know that unique words get more attention. Which brings me to the next resource….

  4. The Wordifier – It’s like a thesaurus, but better. Find out how frequently any word is used across nonprofit websites. Why? To figure out if you need to choose something a bit more dazzling. Also, you can easily find alternatives if your word does happen to be overused.

  5. 128 Words to Use Instead of Very – I came across this infographic earlier this year, and I kind of fell in love. Very is the writing equivalent of taking the easy way out. With so many simple yet descriptive words in our gorgeous language, never settle for very again.

  6. Kivi’s Weekly E-Newsletter – If you’re like me, you get too much email. And most of it feels like junk. So, when something engaging and useful comes through the noise, I feel grateful. Enter Kivi’s weekly e-newsletter. While each week is full of great tips and reflections on non-profit communications, my favorite part is the once-a-month, timely writing prompts that can cure even the most stubborn writer’s block.

  7. Claxon University – Claxon U is the place to go to get trained up on doing more good with your words. It’s an online course designed specifically for nonprofit professionals who want to up their communications game. Plus, there’s a special deal going on now through December 31, 2016, so I’d hurry on over if I were you.

What writing resources have you found helpful this year? Share the knowledge in the comments below, or tweet to us @ClaxonMarketing!

376 Ways to Give Good Gratitude

Heart shape handsDid you feel a slight shift in the atmosphere last Wednesday at 1pm Pacific? A wave of well-being that you couldn’t place? A yearning to thank your barista just a little bit more vociferously than usual?

That’s because right about then me, Shanon Doolittle, and about 250 of our closest friends were dishing about good gratitude. Good grief did we have fun!

Shanon always wows with her practical, yet totally inspired tips for donor love.  The Goddess of Gratitude did not disappoint. (I wasn’t actually counting but I think 376 is a pretty good guestimate of how many ideas Shanon gave out during the webinar. All very doable, by the way.)

Want to hear a surprising thing Shanon said about writing a thank you note?

Don’t start with: “Thank you for…”

Nope, start with something zippier. You expect a thank you note to start with the words “Thank you.” The expected rarely dazzles a donor. (The Wordifier has your back when it comes to finding better words, don’t you worry.)

Kiss boring thank you notes to curb and get your gratitude train going full steam ahead as you head into 2017.  Listen to the recording of this free, fun-filled webinar.

(Plus you’ll learn how Shanon and I met, which is a fun little story.)

Listen right here, right now. >>

 

Santa, Bring Me New Skills for Christmas

Hi, everyone, it’s me, Tess! Don’t remember me? I’ll forgive you. In 2014, I interned with Claxon and had a blast writing blog posts that fueled my inner word nerd. I’m back to bring you more weekly content here on the Claxon blog. Why? To help nonprofit rockstars like you level up their communication skills. Hope you enjoy!

****

santaAh, December. While I get swept up in the holiday bustle as much as the next guy, I find there’s still time, almost a need, for something deeper: personal reflection.

What did I accomplish this year? Was it what I actually wanted to accomplish? What can I do better next year?

Year after year, the thing that falls by the wayside for me is professional development. And I know I’m not alone. In the non-profit sector, we know the meaning of the expressions “under-resourced” and “strapped for time” better than anyone.

Honestly, I think I did better this year. I manage marketing for a non-profit, so I set aside time each week to brush up on marketing best practices. More than a few times, I was pushed eagerly jumped into situations that required me to learn a few things. (ex. I can now fumble my way through Google Adwords! #proud)

But sometimes, I still feel like I’m coming up short. Wouldn’t it be great if Santa — or the whimsical character of your choice — could gift us some new skills to take into the new year?

In a way, he has. Here at Claxon, we’ve made a super special holiday-time decision: to give you $850’s worth of free, one-on-one consulting from Erica Mills. All you have to do is sign up for Claxon University by the end of 2016.

If you haven’t been getting the results you want from your communications — donation appeals, website copy, mission statement, etc. toolbeltetc. — then you don’t want to miss this chance. You’ll learn how to wield one of the most powerful tools in the nonprofit worker’s toolbelt: Clear, concise, and compelling communication.

Learn more about this December 2016 special offer. Your December 2017 self will thank you.

#GivingTuesday Gratitude (& a free webinar)

gratitude, fundraising, free webinarPhew. You made it through another #GivingTuesday. Awesome!

Now what?

Have you thought about how to thank the fab donors who donated to you on #GivingTuesday?

Have you pondered how you’re going to handle the thank-then-turn-around-and-ask tango that happens between #GivingTuesday and year-end?

Do you have ideas for how to infuse gratitude into your donor loooooooove strategy so you have an explosive, joy-filled fundraising year in 2017?

Maybe a tidge? Maybe not at all? Maybe you have but want new ideas for changing things up?

Well have I got good news for you: I’m doing a free webinar next week with the Goddess of Gratitude, Shanon Doolittle!!!!

Gratitude-a-palooza: A gazillion ways to make your donors feel like rock stars
Wednesday, December (yikes, December!) 7, 2016

 

1-2Pm Pacific

Can’t join us live? No big. It’ll be recorded. But you have to sign up to get the recording. So sign up, sit back, and soak up all the ideas me and Shanon have to share with you.

Oh, yeah, we’ll also have lots of time to answer your questions so bring ’em on!