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
 

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.

 

5 Very Bad Assumptions Nonprofits Make About Language

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Thanks for hosting, AFP Bellingham!

Last week, I spoke at the Washington State Nonprofit Conference and at a training up in Bellingham, WA hosted by AFP Washington (that’s about 90 min north of Seattle for you non-NW readers).

We talked about five very bad assumptions most nonprofit folks make about language and how to shift those assumptions to increase your impact. Here they are:

  1. You are the center of the universe: Whether or not that’s true, if you want to engage supporters in your mission, shift your language to make it about them. (Hint: Liberal use of ‘you’ and ‘your’ will do the trick.)
  2. Answers are more important than questions: Nope, questions are where it’s at. When you hear someone’s questions, you know what they’re interested in. So shift your approach so you proactively invite questions.
  3. You’re being strategic with your words: Unless you’re crystal clear on what success looks like, and who you’re trying to reach with your words, you’re not being strategic. Shift to a habit of always being clear on whose ears need to hear your message. The 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree poster (which you can see in all its glory in the picture above) can help you make this shift.
  4. People can understand you: Um, not if you’re using jargon and fancy phrases. Knock that off! You want to shift so your language is free of jargon and fancy phrases. That makes it easy for people to understand you and repeat what you say.
  5. Nouns are more important than other parts of speech: Yeah…no. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again–verbs are where it’s at! You’ll do yourself and your organization a big favor by shifting to a verb-first approach to language.

There they are–the five assumptions and the shifts you should make if you want to use language to make the world a better place!

 

Ode to Jargon, a Limerick

The jargon is often quite dense,
and often eludes common sense ,
at the end of the day,
say what you may,
I am certain it’s not what you meant.

Linda Moore, President & CEO,
Yakima Valley Community Foundation 

Jargon. It seems so benign. What could be so wrong with using the expressions ‘wrap-around services’, ‘collective impact‘, or ‘philanthropic value proposition’?

As David Ogilvy so eloquently stated: “Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.” Put another way: You may think jargon makes you sound smart. But the “smarter” you sound, the dumber your listener likely feels. 

Jargon really gets on my nerves. It’s why I write about its nefarious nature in Pitchfalls, in this post about board members and hiccups, and this one where (for our collective and individual sanity), I assertively encourage you to embrace a more straight-forward way of speaking.

If you want people to engage, invest, support, donate, volunteer and/or serve as your advocates or fans, you’ll be well served by systematically eradicating jargon from your marketplace of words.

NOTE: It costs you nothing to stop using jargon. It costs you everything if you don’t succeed in getting people engaged in your work and talking about it to others! Don’t let something as simple as jargon get in your way.

7 Rules of Thumb (plus some cats and dogs)

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Photo credit: @DressForSuccesPHX

Earlier this week, I gave a keynote for the Alliance of Arizona’s annual membership meeting. I got to talk about one of the my all-time favorite topics >> The Language of Impact: how words can make the world a better place.

We covered 7 rules of thumb when it comes to using language, and therefore words, to increase impact.

  1. Get rigorous.
  2. Focus on your verbs.
  3. Ditch the robo-speak
  4. Stop talking about yourself.
  5. Stop talking so much.
  6. Translate your taglines.
  7. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Some, but not all, of these are covered in some form or fashion in Pitchfalls: why bad pitches happen to good people, my pocket-size book about pitches.

I focus a lot on pitches because they force you to really pay attention to every single word you use. It’s a useful exercise to see if you can say what you have to say in 10 words or less. It forces you to find the very best words and to prune out the superfluous ones.

Is this easy? No. Mark Twain said, “I would’ve written you a shorter story, but I didn’t have the time.”

Is it worth it? Yes.

Because the above Rules of Thumb take a little explaining in order to embrace, over the next few weeks, you’ll see a follow-up post on each rule. In the meantime, experiment with saying whatever you have to say in 10 words or less. See what stays and what goes.

(If you know anyone else who might be interested in how to use words to make the world a better place, share/forward this post so they can get in on the action, okay? Thanks!)

A note on cats and dogs: At the beginning of my talk, I asked a series of questions so I could factor the audience’s answers into my remarks. One of the questions was whether they were a cat person or a dog person. Someone asked me later how I used that information. (They were too polite to say it, but I think their real question was: do I really use that information or do I just ask it because it’s kinda funny? Either question is totally legit.)

Here’s the answer: I commonly ask the question at the beginning of a talk and, yes, I totally use what I learn. Acknowledging that this is a GROSS GENERALIZATION (and one with which some will take umbrage), here’s how: I use it as a proxy for how extroverted/introverted a group is. I then use this to inform how much I will/can engage the group.

For this particular group, there were way more dog people than cat people in da house. I engaged the audience a whole lot. I called on people individually. I asked questions throughout, etc. If there had been way more cat people, I might not have engaged quite so much. At least not right away. I would’ve eased into it a bit more. Not because introverts aren’t social–because they can be!–but they generally have a different learning style than extroverts. (See this wonderful graphic for more on introverts and extroverts.) This cat/dog approach is not an exact science and has its flaws, but it works pretty darn well.

So there you have it: 7 Rules of Thumb, plus some cats and dogs.

Disclaimer: The above paragraph should not be taken as judgement for or against introverts or extroverts, cat-lovers or dog-lovers or animal-lovers, in general. The world needs all the above, plus the animals they love.