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!

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!