A Super Easy Way for Nonprofits to Replicate the #IceBucketChallenge

ALS Association, #IceBucketChallengeThe success of the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge is a sight to behold. Everyone from Bill Gates (who has a much better sense of humor than he is given credit for) to Matt Damon (who uses toilet water cuz he’s the co-founder of water.org and a marketing genius) is getting in on the action. It has generated tons of buzz and so far raised $94 million. #Yowza

It’s obvious that part of what made the #IceBucketChallenge a success is its exceptionally high fun factor and that it was easy, i.e. people were instantly engaged. Who wouldn’t want to see Laura pour a bucket of ice cold water all over W, after all?!

The ALS Association are making it super easy for people to get in on the fun. So long as you have water, ice, a bucket-like container and a way to take a video, you’re set.

Put another way:

Fun + Easy = Successful Engagement

If we know this combo works, why oh why are nonprofits using boring, convoluted language to talk about their work? Doesn’t make sense.

Yes, I’m going to harsh on Mission Statements. Again. Remember this list of Mission Statements that were un-fun and technically incomprehensible? Mm-hm.  That list. The one that sparked our Worst Mission Statement contest.

But it’s not just nonprofit Mission Statements that make people nod off. We did a survey of 384 nonprofit websites and learned that, of the 250,000 words in the English language, nonprofits are only using about 1,000. Gimme a B-O-R-I-N-G.

Totally fine to try your hand at creating something as successful as the #IceBucketChallenge, but seeing if you can use language that’s fun and easy-to-understand would be a worthy challenge as well!

Want to win prizes for spunking up your Mission Statement? Enter to win our Worst Mission Statement contest by 8/31!

Enter to win the ‘Worst Nonprofit Mission Statement Contest’

Mission Statements, Worst Mission Statement, Nonprofit Mission StatementI’ve been spending lots of time thinking about Mission Statements because of our Mini-Mission Makeover series. Turns out there’s nothing mini about how bad most Nonprofit Mission Statements are. To wit, this submission from Leslie Hall of the Michigan Rural EMS Network:

MiREMS is a diverse network representing EMS interest in Michigan developing partnerships with providers, to identify challenges, strategies, and opportunities to improve patient outcomes for all Michigan residents.”

Leslie also wrote, “If you have a Worst Mission Statement Contest, I believe I will be a strong contender!” With all due respect, Leslie, I couldn’t agree more.

Here we are, all about mission and yet the statements that are meant to reflect that mission are incomprehensible combos of meaningless words. This must stop. Mushy, incomprehensible Mission Statements drive people away, rather than bringing them in. And that’s no good. Let’s do a Failure Bow and move on.

We’re taking Leslie’s suggestion and hosting the Worst Nonprofit Mission Statement Contest. We need to get all this ridiculousness out of our systems, so we can move on to having Marvelous Mission Statements  that clearly and compellingly communicate what we do so that people can quickly and easily decide if they want to get involved.

Here’s how the contest will work:

  • By August 31, you enter to win by posting your organization’s Mission Statement on Claxon’s Facebook page.
  • In September, we will announce the three finalists in the Claxonette. (If you don’t already subscribe to the Claxonette, now’d be a good time to get yourself signed up.)
  • You will get to vote on which statement you think is the worst.
  • The Mission Statement with the most votes wins a copy of Pitchfalls and a Very Special Secret Gift!

Once we have all these terrible Mission Statements behind us, we’ll figure out how to get you a marvelous one, okay? Okay. Now hop to it and submit your statement!

Mini-Mission Makeover: Association for Supportive Child Care

I recently did a follow-up webinar to a keynote I gave at the Alliance for Arizona Nonprofits’ Annual Membership Meeting. I invited participants to send in their response to the question “What do you do?”, so we could chat about them.

The Association for Supportive Child Care sent in the following sentence: “We work to enhance the quality of care for children across Arizona.”

This is very similar to their Mission Statement, which is “to enhance the quality of care for children across Arizona.” It’s great that their Mission Statement is so short and sweet, isn’t it? So rare and wonderful!

My advice–stick with that short n’ sweet Mission Statement of theirs. They *almost* stick with it but commit a common messaging mistake–they use a qualifier. In their case, the qualifier is “work to…” Other examples of qualifiers include: striving, endeavoring, and trying.

Qualifiers function as little, tiny apologies. They make your work seem like it has less impact, less oomph, than it really does. They don’t enhance your messaging. It makes it sound like you’re kinda, sorta doing the thing you’re referencing, but you’re not all in. People want to support organizations that are all in for whatever they’re doing. Sitting on the fence isn’t inspiring. Best to eliminate qualifiers.

For the Association for Supportive Child Care, they could simply say, “We enhance the quality of care for children across Arizona.” Simple. It begs the question, “How do you enhance the quality of care?” And remember–when it comes to using language to engage people in your work, questions are good!

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