Sometimes it can seem like there is endless discussion of political correctness – are we talking about refugees or asylum seekers? Is it gun violence or extremism? The words we choose can sometime seem irrelevant to the issue and if not counter productive, at least unproductive.
But we believe that there’s tremendous power in the words that we use and the effect that they have on our audience. Just ask any communications or marketing professional around how they market sales. From a nonprofit perspective, for example, one of our clients refers to their youth participants as future leaders, and not disadvantaged youth of color. Think of the positioning that does – it already tells you how this organization views its work, and very likely what types of programs it is providing. Our phrasing can create perspectives for funders, the service recipients, and board members. Similarly, do you think of other nonprofits in the same issue area as competitors for the funder dollar, or as potential partners?
From a funder perspective, do your giving focus areas ‘create pathways of achievement’ or do they help kids ‘stop the cycle of poverty’. Which phrase is more empowering, more forward looking, and gives nonprofits an idea of the type of programs you may want to fund. Are you innovative and entrepreneurial? Or more focused on direct service? For funders, our framing can help us think differently about long standing issues, particularly if we’ve been funding in them for some time and haven’t been happy with the results.
While often times, the nuanced nature of our conversation can be frustrating, but at closer examination, it should actually be valued because it helps set us on our course, clarifies expectations, purpose and mission, all while guiding and empowering those that use it to infuse it with intention.
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