I got a lot of great feedback on my post last week on 4 Words Nonprofits Need to Stop Using. Thanks to everyone who commented, even the folks who disagreed with my choice of certain words. Sharing your opinion is what Inspiring Generosity is all about! It also proves what I’ve always said: meaning is in people not in words. My four no-no words may not be on your delete list (although everyone seemed to agree that synergy needs to go!).
At the risk of jumping the shark this week, I thought I would take on another list of four. But this one is on the things nonprofits need to stop saying. Here we go.
“My nonprofit’s mission can’t be told visually. I have to explain it to people.” I hear this one from a lot of nonprofits whenever I suggest the visual pin board site Pinterest. “Yeah, we’ve talked about it, but Pinterest isn’t right for our organization.” If you think you can’t tell your nonprofit’s story with images or video, you should rethink your mission because people think in pictures. Don’t believe me? Pick a great company or cause and I bet you’re accosted with a flood of mental images. Did you think of Apple? What did you see, a smartphone, iPad or Steve Jobs himself?
“We can’t do cause marketing.” Any nonprofit can do cause marketing, which I define as a partnership between a nonprofit and for-profit for mutual profit. Cause marketing isn’t some kind of magic that only McDonald’s and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are capable of performing. Most dollars raised through cause marketing are collected either through pinups or simple percentage of sales programs. These programs can be successfully executed with a thousand stores or just one storefront. But you have to be realistic about how much you can raise. Williams-Sonoma has hundreds of stores, a key reason why they raise millions for nonprofits such as St. Jude.
“We’re on social media, but we don’t tweet, Facebook or blog much. We like to lurk in the shadows.” I kid you not, someone really said this to me. First, lurking is like stalking, it’s just weird. So stop it before you get into trouble. Second, social media is about the conversation. You’re missing about 90 percent of the action by just sitting back reading it like the newspaper.
“Our nonprofit is special and unique. We’re doing God’s work.” Well, if you’re doing God’s work you must be Job because he hasn’t shown you the love lately. It’s not that nonprofits shouldn’t think of themselves as special, but too often they use it to justify not giving their best effort. “We don’t need marketing because our work speaks for itself.” Stop reading your own public relations. Accept that you’re average, not so remarkable and, above all, replaceable and have to work harder than the next nonprofit to succeed.
Those are words that you can live by.