4 Things Nonprofits Need to Stop Saying

Photo by Kirsten Loza

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.


5 thoughts on “4 Things Nonprofits Need to Stop Saying”

  1. Love this, Joe! Here were five I put on the “Do Not Use” list earlier this year:u00a0nhttp://www.claxonmarketing.com/2012/02/10/top-5-words-to-avoid-featured-on-kivis-nonprofit-communications-blog/

  2. I think this is a very good list! I especially agree that “lurking” in social media is pointless! If you’re not talking, no one will hear your message.

  3. I think we all start out, especially in chats, as lurkers until we can learn the rules and get to know the level of the discussion going on. But, as you have pointed out, lurking does not get your message out. And that, after all is the point of businesses getting out there.nnI think many companies, especially non-profits miss the point that to engage in social media, you must in fact be social.nnGood list.nnMartina

      1. Thanks for the affirmation Joe. No, shyness very rarely serves us well in our private lives, and certainly not in business. How can you expect people to know you are, what you have to offer, or in this case why they should bother to contribute, if they have no idea that you even exist? Lurking shoul be a temporary state, not considered a marketing strategy.

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