If you take your role at your nonprofit organization seriously, you’ve probably given some thought to the “talking points” to use when representing it.
If you address a group of prospective volunteers you probably think carefully about the words and phrases you use to represent your organization’s work.
If you’re in conversation with a potential new donor we bet you polish the language you use in speaking about the great things that could be accomplished with his or her generous gift.
But what about when you’re talking to your best friend about the latest board meeting? What do you tell the guy who sells you your morning cup of coffee when he finally asks you where you work and what you do there?
In these less formal situations we’ve noticed that nonprofit professionals tend to go slack, using slang, shortcuts and unclear language to describe their work. “I work at the XYZ Homeless Shelter. I’m a program manager.”
If I’ve never heard of the shelter I might not know that XYZ is the only shelter serving women and children in this neighborhood. And if I sell coffee for a living I may not know what a program manager is or does.
What a missed opportunity! We think you should always be clear and consistent when talking about your nonprofit — whether you’re a paid staff person in accounting, the president of the board, or a weekly volunteer.
Next time the coffee guy asks you where you work, try something like this instead: “I help link homeless women and children with the services that get them back on their feet and into warm, safe homes. We’re called XYZ Homeless Shelter and we’re right here in the neighborhood. We welcome volunteers and need more financial donors to help these families. I’d love to tell you more about us when you have the time.”
Remember that everyone you meet is a potential supporter—or at least someone in a position to tell others about you. So think about your talking points and use them every time you talk about your work… not just when you think the microphone is on.
Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one impact coach.
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