Nonprofits: Why you should stop trying and start doing
Are you achieving your mission – or only trying?
Last month, I read an article advising women to eliminate the word “just” from their vocabulary.
The author explains why the word was bothering her:
I am all about respectful communication. Yet I began to notice that just wasn’t about being polite: It was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.
I’m guilty, and I’ve been conscious of it ever since.
In the same way, I’ve noticed a problem many nonprofits have.
There are some phrases you find on organizations’ “About” page or in their mission statement.
Do you see where I’m going?
These phrases weaken your claim. They make you sound less effective.
Here’s why you should consider removing those words.
- It’s whiny – “We’re working so hard!”
- It’s passive – “Well, we’re helping…”
- It’s fudging – “Can we really claim to be doing something?”
Ask yourself: does your mission matter?
Are you getting results just by trying?
Did you answer “no”? Then you should find a different organization or change how you’re working.
If you answered “yes”, then take Master Yoda’s advice:
Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.
just say it.
A personal note
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote Your work or a life: a painful choice no one should have to make.
I was surprised and gratified by the response. Thanks to Roger Craver at The Agitator and Gail Perry for their pieces on the topic. And Pamela Grow, Beth Kanter, Vu Le and Tom Ahern for pointing people to mine. (By the way, Beth is writing a book about wellness in nonprofit organizations. Stay tuned!)
And huge thanks to everyone who sent me comments and shared their experience.
I’m going to come back to the topic – it needs more attention. I’m putting together my thoughts now and hope to have another post for you next week.
If you haven’t already shared your views, please do. You can comment on the post, or get in touch here.
Photo by Ryan McGuire, Gratisography
Our mission statement doesn’t have the word “just” in it, or any other modifier. Our vision is lofty, however, with the aim of impacting every student in the state. When writing grants or thank you letters, I do say that we are “striving to” accomplish this or that, and that donors are “helping” do this or that, in order to maintain integrity and not claim that we are already accomplishing things that we haven’t already accomplished.
Mary Cahalane says
Well, the just was an example of tics many of us use in everyday speech. But my point about the others is this: are you accomplishing your mission? That doesn’t mean you’ve got the problem solved. But it means you’re actively solving it. So are you affecting students now? Are you enriching lives now? Then you’re already accomplishing! You don’t need to try to, you’re doing it.
Does that make sense?
And donors? Of course, they’re helping – and doing. Give them all the credit you can at every opportunity!
Good food for thought! Thank you!
Mary Cahalane says
Thank you, Ingrid! I appreciate the comment, and your thoughtfulness.