Posted by Zach Hochstadt on November 5th, 2010
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Messaging, Storytelling, Videos Tags: ajws, andy samberg, apatow, ben stiller, brian williams, dane cook, danny trejo, denis leary, don johnson, donald glover, gilbert gottfried, helen hunt, jerry seinfeld, john mayer, julia louis-dreyfus, ken jeong, kiefer sutherland, lindsay lohan, lisa edelstein, naming, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Messaging, nonprofit storytelling, patrick stewart, San Francisco, sarah silverman, susan sarandon, the insult comedy dog, tracy morgan, triumph, Videos
So Judd Apatow is funny. There’s no question about that. But in this five minute short he created for American Jewish World Service (AJWS), we also see some of the worst practices in nonprofit communications.
Don’t believe me? Give yourself this test — watch the movie above, wait 15 minutes, and see if you can answer any of these questions:
If you’re like most people, question 5 was the only question you could answer. Don’t blame yourself. It’s not because you weren’t paying attention. It’s because our brains aren’t wired to remember facts and figures the way they’re presented in the AJWS video.
Our brains are wired to remember stories.
And there’s only one story being told in the video. That story is that non-Jews support AJWS, and many of them are famous.
In our opinion, this is a lost opportunity. This hilarious video will travel around the world and will be seen by millions. But at the end of the day, no one will remember what AJWS does or why it’s needed. All a viewer will remember is that Brian Williams does a great rendition of Fiddler on the Roof.
Good nonprofit communications remind us why we should care and show us how we can do something to address the problem. They are focused on the reader or viewer. They show the viewer what the problem is and how he or she can do something to make a difference.
Bad nonprofit communications list programs and services. They overwhelm the viewer with information.
In essence, bad communication talks about HOW an organization does the work. Good communication shows WHY an organization is needed and WHAT happens in the world as a result of its work.
As hilarious as this video is, it fails in its primary goal, which is to connect more people to the mission of AJWS.
Oy, The Name!
Kudos, though, to the great commentary on AJWS’ name. Julia Louis-Dreyfus says that “it sounds like a scam from Nigeria. Really.” And Dane Cook’s comment, “It’s like saying ‘California United States Lutheran Earth Services of the Moon'” had us in stitches.
Joking aside, there’s a real lesson in here. Acronyms and long names don’t bring donors closer to your organization.
Compare “American Jewish World Service” with “Mercy Corps” or “Salvation Army”. Their missions are similar, but the latter names are visual, short and compelling. The names focus on service and those who are served, not those who are delivering the service.
So as much as we love seeing great comedians telling great jokes, put this video in your “Practices to Avoid” list. Your organization can do better.
Want to learn more about great nonprofit communication? Come join us at one of our upcoming trainings!
Zach Hochstadt is a Mission Minded Founding Partner and runs Mission Minded’s Denver office, leading the company’s creative teams in the areas of message development, writing, graphic design, and web design and development.
See all posts by Zach Hochstadt