I spent the weekend running an awesome robot competition, so I asked Catherine Caine to write this week’s awesome blog post. You will not be disappointed.
Catherine is passionate about helping people to start and grow an awesome website: she’s even published a manifesto about it. When she’s not adding 5 minute missions to BeAwesomeOnline.com, she can invariably be found on Twitter.
Have you ever had a four-year-old tell you about something they did? With a mystifying painting of blobs in their hands they will burble excitedly about how this is a bird and this is Daddy and this is a helichopper… Even if this isn’t your kid and you’re a professional art critic you’re enchanted and engaged by their enthusiasm.
By comparison, a fifteen-year-old telling you about their day is a monosyllabic stream of sighs and frowns. The best you get is “It was pretty good, I guess”. According to a fifteen-year-old, everything is painted in shades of suck. You tell them about something you’re interested in and all you get is shrugs and “whatever”. What a buzzkill.
So which one do you sound like when you’re talking about what you do?
“Serious” does not mean “grim”
Child abuse, poverty, extinction, homelessness… nonprofits often work in the hard places, and see a lot of cruel and depressing sights. It’s so easy to come away from the excellent work you’re doing and talk about it like you’re an undertaker. You need to consciously resist that tendency.
It hurts your donors
People want to feel they’re making a difference, that the money they give you is going to accomplish great things. If they feel everything is hopeless and grim, they’ll think “What I do doesn’t matter, why should I bother?” and stop donating.
It hurts your volunteers
Most nonprofits work for causes that are in it for the long haul. Your volunteers need to keep their spirits up so they can avoid burnout and keep contributing.
It hurts your family
Your loved ones don’t want to see you come home every day and sigh when they ask how your day went. They want you to be happy and fulfilled, not miserable!
It hurts you
Nonprofit work is emotionally tough. How you talk about your work (both internally and externally) changes how you feel about it. Your language determines how you feel about your work. Do you want to feel tired, hopeless, resigned, unappreciated and powerless? Or does fired up, grateful, empowered, proud and satisfied sound better?
What to do about it
Always write with positive language. Remember that four-year-old, so excited about the work she’s done? Ignore any voice in yourself that says that charity is Serious Business and write something that’s joyous and excited about the work you’re doing and the results it’s having. Use exclamation marks and words like:
And of course, my personal favorite: awesome.
Encourage your volunteers to share their best moment of the day and do the same yourself when people ask how your day was. Start with “Why, it was fantastic!”
And when you catch yourself talking about the work in downcast tones, rephrase it immediately. You are your organization’s most precious resource, so look after your emotional well-being!