New (lower) price for Claxon U!

The Punch Line

The price for Claxon University’s on-line training–Words on a Mission–is now $425 if you pay up-front, or $40/month for 12 months.

The Rationale

We created Words on a Mission because we wanted as many non-profits, do-gooders, and mission-motivated trailblazers as possible to be able to learn how to create remarkable messaging.

We did it so communications conundrums could become a thing of the past.

We did it because we know that effective communications leads to engagement.

To more funds, and awareness, and good in the world.

That’s why we did it.

Claxon U “students” have knocked it out of the park when it comes to getting results. Totally awe-inspiring what they’ve accomplished.

We want those results for absolutely everyone. We want them for you.

But recently we had one of those moments. A moment when you realize if you’re going to achieve your vision, you need to course correct to get there.

At $949, Words on a Mission seemed fairly reasonably priced. It’s about $25,000 worth of consulting all wrapped up in a self-paced on-line training that anyone can do. Nifty.

But recently we did a webinar with Vu Le and the topic of professional development came up. We asked participants how much budget they had for professional development. We knew it wasn’t going to be much and–wowee– it is not a lot.

$949 isn’t doable, even for mid-size organizations. So we decided to do something about that.

We sat ourselves down and said, “If the goal is to get this into the hands of as many people as possible, how low can we go and not lose money?”

$425. That’s how low we can go.

So that’s the new price. $425 up front, or $40 per month for 12 months.

We had to trim down a few things to make this price doable. For instance, we’re no longer going to do on-line office hours. But you’ll still be able to ask questions via the private Facebook group, so you won’t ever be stuck and not have the support you need. We got your back.

If you’ve been on the fence about doing this training, hop off the fence and into the land of communications awesomeness! You know you’ve got it in you. We believe in you.

Let’s do this thing!

Philanthropy & Toothpaste: a Free Webinar

Did you know that 71% of non-profit client needs go unmet? 71%. Ugh.

Meanwhile, individual giving has been stuck at ~2% of GDP since we put a  man on the moon. And it looks like government funding might be withering.

To review: we’ve got huge unmet demand and not enough funding. #NotGood

What gives? There you are, doing your amazingly awesome work and yet people aren’t flocking to support it. You can’t meet demand because of lack of supply.  Seems weird, doesn’t it?

Actually, it’s not that weird. Unlike toothpaste which when you run out of it, you quick-like buy some more because, ewwwwww, if you don’t.

No, philanthropy isn’t like toothpaste at all. People may notice that we have some Massive Social Problems That Seriously Need Addressing. But they don’t have to do anything about them. We’re a nice-to-think-about/do-something-about, not a must-buy-right-now-or-I’ll-creep-out-my-coworkers. That means we have to work even harder to get someone’s attention. It’s a very high bar indeed.

How can you–amazing, awesome person doing amazing, awesome work–hit that high attention-grabbing, engagement-inspiring bar?

This is exactly the question we’re going to tackle in this month’s free webinar. Because let’s get real: non-profits are being asked to do more and more with less and less. It’s not sustainable and we have to do something about it.

Will clear, concise, compelling communications solve all of the world’s problems? No. Not by a long shot. But bloated, convoluted communications aren’t helping our cause and we CAN fix that. So let’s do. Let’s get your words on a mission. Stat.

Words on a Mission: Mini-Course
March 30, 1Pm Pacific

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376 Ways to Give Good Gratitude

Heart shape handsDid you feel a slight shift in the atmosphere last Wednesday at 1pm Pacific? A wave of well-being that you couldn’t place? A yearning to thank your barista just a little bit more vociferously than usual?

That’s because right about then me, Shanon Doolittle, and about 250 of our closest friends were dishing about good gratitude. Good grief did we have fun!

Shanon always wows with her practical, yet totally inspired tips for donor love.  The Goddess of Gratitude did not disappoint. (I wasn’t actually counting but I think 376 is a pretty good guestimate of how many ideas Shanon gave out during the webinar. All very doable, by the way.)

Want to hear a surprising thing Shanon said about writing a thank you note?

Don’t start with: “Thank you for…”

Nope, start with something zippier. You expect a thank you note to start with the words “Thank you.” The expected rarely dazzles a donor. (The Wordifier has your back when it comes to finding better words, don’t you worry.)

Kiss boring thank you notes to curb and get your gratitude train going full steam ahead as you head into 2017.  Listen to the recording of this free, fun-filled webinar.

(Plus you’ll learn how Shanon and I met, which is a fun little story.)

Listen right here, right now. >>


Webinars, Sumall, and bobby socks

It’s Sumall. That magical, fleeting time when Summer transitions to Fall. Personally, I have a total crush on Sumall–it’s still light out when I wake up, but the vibe is decidedly calmer. BBQs and shorts give way to soups and sweaters.

Leaves change. Light shifts. Love it.

That shifting of light and leaves doesn’t just mean swapping out your wardrobe, however. It means it’s time to put away your hula hoop and head back to school.

Confession: I have resisted doing webinars. I like seeing people learn. Watching someone’s face light up when they “get it”. But one of the things that is extremely, very, exceptionally important to me is that everyone who is on a mission to make the world a better place has access to info to help them do their job as efficiently and effectively as possible. And that means eeking out everything the internet has to offer when it comes to on-line learning and doing. That’s why we created the Wordifier. That’s why we launched Claxon University. And that’s why I had to get over my aversion to doing webinars.

And I’m really glad I did. Because in August, we offered our very first webinar. And, well, wow. 500+ people signed up. We covered a ton of tips and tricks about putting your words on a mission. And we had a good time, despite a few vexing tech glitches. (If you missed it, you can listen here.)

We had so much fun and got so much great feedback that guess what? We’re going to offer another webinar. This one will be about…drum roll please…

The Secret(s) to Successful Year-end Appeals

October 12 from 1-2 Pacific

Like the Wordifier, and Claxon U, you’ll be able to access this webinar wherever you are. And whenever you want. Will it be more fun to join the webinar live? Well, of course, silly. You get to make comments, and ask questions, and get answers. On the spot. But we all know you’re busy, so sometimes joining live won’t be possible. No problem whatsoever. The webinar will all be recorded. Ready and waiting for you to watch whenever it works for you. (See a theme here…?)

If this one goes well, we might just add webinars to our regular docket of offerings. We have lots of ideas for webinar topics: How to Write Killer Calls-to-Action, Gratitude as an Engagement Strategy, How to Test Your Messaging with a Shoestring Budget.

I’m curious: what webinar topics would you like me to see Claxon offer? Let me know in the comments.

You’ll be seeing more from me and the team about this webinar, but if I were you (because, yeah I admit it, I’m a planner), I’d sign up and get it on your calendar right this very minute. It’ll up the odds you can join me live. #Funsies

Happy Fall!

bobbyP.S. Curious about the bobby sock reference? Sign up for the webinar and I’ll tell you what that’s all about. It has to do with one of my favorite back-to-school outfits and a secret snatched from neuroscience that you’ll be able to use to great effect in your year-end appeal. Oh the suspense!

Post Readability Stats: Reading Ease: 77.3, Grade Level: 5.2

FREE WEBINAR: Put your Words on a Mission

Claxon University is hosting our first-ever FREE webinar on August 24 at 1pm PST. Will you join me? I’d love that.

If you’ll be on vacation that day, don’t sweat it. Enjoy it! Sign up today, and you can listen to the recording when you’re back…refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to get your communications in tip-top shape.

Now, what will you learn in this webinar that you might not already know?

  • The biggest messaging mistakes I see nonprofits make again and again. And then I’m going to tell you how to avoid and/or fix them.
  • How to make simple tweaks to your writing that’ll make people go, “Woah, wait. What are you doing? I want in on that!”
  • How to get into the minds, and hearts, of your most important audiences. Think donors and staff and board members and volunteers. (And then think about donors again because, well, they’re important.)
  • Etc, etc, etc.

This won’t be an “oh let me just turn this on and listen in the background” webinar. This is going to be a “oh let me have both hands free so I can take copious notes” type of thing. There will be time for Q&A, so you will also be able to get your burning questions answered on the spot.

Whether you join me live on August 24 at 1pm PST, or via recording post-vacay, I really encourage you to sign up for this webinar. It’s free. So pretty much a no-risk proposition. And you’ll learn a ton. The Claxon Team has continued to do research, and find out new things, and by August 24, we’ll be ready to share all our newfound knowledge with YOU.


How do you motivate motivation?

[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]


The One Thing You Need to Know: Get out and meet people! Meeting someone who will benefit from your work will increase your perseverance, long-term motivation, and success.

Your Motivation Mojo

Motivation is elusive.

For instance, you get all pumped up to work out five days a week. It all starts off really well. You kickbox and yoga the heck out of your newly minted gym pass and jaunty workout gear, yes you do. Quite a week. Motivation mojo is in awesome mode.

Fast-forward to week three. It is 6AM. Your BodyCombat class starts in 30 minutes and rather than donning your workout gear, you stare lovingly at the snooze button…

Zap! Just like that, your motivation mojo goes missing.

This happens in all aspects of our lives. It’s one thing to lose your gym mojo. It’s another thing to lose your work mojo. Because in your line of work, when you lose your mojo, the people you serve lose out as well.

Want to know something magical? You can keep your motivation mojo motivated simply by meeting someone that your work benefits. This is true for you, your staff, your volunteers, your board–everyone. Indeed, this motivation trick works on everyone, regardless of their role.

Researchers did a series of experiments on people working in a fundraising organization. These folks raised money by working the phones. In the experiment, one group interacted briefly with a beneficiary. The other group read a letter from a beneficiary and talked about the letter amongst themselves, i.e. no contact.

Guess what? A month later, the group that read the letter saw basically no difference in persistence or job performance. However–and this is a BIG however–the group that interacted with the beneficiary showed way more persistence (142% more phone time) and job performance (171% more money raised).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although this research took place in a fundraising organization, the researchers were not thinking of this as advancing an understanding of fundraising. No, they were looking at it through the lens of organizational psychology and the importance of word design to increase task significance and thereby motivation and effectiveness. So, yes, it applies to fundraising. But the application is much broader and, therefore, more widely relevant.

Want more on motivation?

  1. Read the study, Impact and the Art of Motivation Maintenance, right here.
  2. If you find yourself needing the motivation to write, go meet a beneficiary, and then turn on Written Kitten. Right your little heart out!
  3. Try out a Pomodora Timer. (I am a big fan of the ‘Awwesome’ option. Go ahead, try it.)

Did you hear about the August 24th, FREE Words on a Mission Webinar we are hosting? You can sign up here. 


Totally Irrational

[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]



The one thing you need to know: 

Don’t mention all the people/puppies/trees that someone’s donation will fall short of helping. Focus on what it will help.

So, what’s the deal?

We’re totally irrational about our charitable giving. We like to think we’re rational. But when it comes down to it, we’re just not. (My fave piece on this is Homer Simpson for Nonprofits.)

This plays out in a bunch of different ways. But one specific way has to do with how you frame your stories. Per the last Language Lab post, you’re writing stories that shine a bright light on one super amazing person (or puppy…I’ll stop with the puppies now) that a donor could help, right? Right.

It’s oh-so-tempting to mention that there are other people who also need help. Big, epic social issues generally involve more than one person. Feels weird not to mention the other people. But do so at your own peril. Because as soon as you mention all the others–zap!–all the magic disappears.

The donor is now focused on the unmet need. They get sad and unhappy. They feel like their donation couldn’t possibly make a difference so what’s the point? Instead of making a donation, they drag themselves to the nearest Starbucks and drown their charitable sorrows in a double tall, split shot vanilla latte made with organic, wholesome milk.

For the same price that they just spent on their latte, the donor could’ve made a difference in someone’s life. But they no longer felt like they could.

Hot Tips

  • If you’re going to mention more than one person, adhere to WJ Lecky’s idea of an expanding circle. It starts with the individual and then goes to the family then the community, etc. Unify more people together into one as you go.
  • Harken back to what you learned about unit-asking. If you need to show the larger context, ask your supporter to think about what they would give to help one person first. Then–and only then–expand to more people.
  • Riff on the Starfish & the Boy story. (The little boy sure teaches the sourpuss man a thing or two, doesn’t he?)
  • Or riff on: “To the world, you may be but one person. But to one person, you may be the world.”

P.S. Countdown to Fall Quarter at Claxon University is on: only 76 days left. Unleash your awesome this fall! (These fine folks did. You can, too.)

The Story of One. And Only One.

[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]


In the last Language Lab, we talked about how oxytocin and dopamine generate generosity. I said there was more to say about oxytocin and storytelling. Here’s the more.

The One Thing You Need to Know: Tell stories about one person. Not thousands of people. Or hundreds of people. Or even two people. One person. Singular.

Why One Works
You’ve likely heard the saying: “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” (Who said this first is up for debate, by the way.) These are words to live by if you’re looking to get people jazzed about your world-changing work.

But why? The arithmetic of compassion. That’s why.

Watch this:

  • Visualize one puppy
  • Now visualize 1,000 puppies

Which visual was stronger? Likely the one of the one puppy. Your brain could fill in all the adorable details–her brown eyes, her black, twitching nose, her cinnamon colored, white speckled ears. Oooooooohhhh. Adorbs!

What about the image of the 1000 puppies? Still cute. Cuz they’re puppies. But fuzzy. Lacking details. Just a mass of puppiness.

Fuzzy masses aren’t compelling.

Bonus Bit: Not only do people respond more to one person/puppy, they feel better when they’ve helped that one person/puppy. So by telling the Story of One, you not only grab people’s attention more easily, but–if it comes to pass that they donate–they feel better about their donation. (Can you say “win/win”?)

Important Stuff

Countdown to Fall Quarter at Claxon University has begun: only 88 days left. Unleash your awesome this fall! (These fine folks did. You can, too.)

Love Drug or Moral Molecule?

[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]


The One Thing You Need to Know: You will be more successful if you create trust with your donors/supporters/other important people in your life by avoiding jargon and using easy-to-understand language.


Look at this picture. Soak it in.

Look at those two. Cute, right? Want to know something neat? That mum’s brain is awash in a chemical called ‘oxytocin’. Mmmmmm….oxytocin. Frequently referred to as the Love Drug, oxytocin makes us feel happy, nice, and generous.

But here’s the really important thing about oxytocin as it relates specifically to doing more good in the world: oxytocin it’s not just the Love Drug, it’s the Moral Molecule.

You see, we get all those happy, snuggly, generous feelings when social bonding occurs. Super smartie Paul Zak’s coined the term, “The Moral Molecule”. He wrote a book by the same name. In it, he explains that social bonding occurs when you trust someone. The person on the receiving end of a trust-inducing gesture reciprocates trust and also pays it forward. And–voila–you have a generosity fueling trust-fest. See how that could be useful for you?!

Neat news: you can initiate feelings of trust by doing exactly the same things I recommended you do not seem like a fraud. To review:

There’s actually another cool thing to know about oxytocin and its (practically) magical ability to get people psyched about your work. Oxytocin explains why telling a story that focuses on one person in need, vs. lots o’ people in need, works so well. But I think we’ve covered enough for today. We’ll cover the Story of One research in the next Language Lab, okay?

Want a deeper dive?

Check out Paul Zak’s piece on what narrative exposure (yes, that’s an actual term) has to do with charitable giving.

Also think about signing up for Claxon University–home of clear and compelling communication that raises awareness, increases, and does more good in the world. Fall Quarter registration is now open!

*Technically, a drug is a foreign substance that you introduce into the body. So, if you make it yourself it isn’t a drug. It’s a chemical. But “Release the Chemicals” wasn’t as zippy. And hey, check you out. Reading the fine print. Way to go, word nerd!

Don’t be a fraud

[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]


The One Thing You Need to Know:
Avoid jargon and keep readability high if you want to avoid coming off as deceptive and, in turn, turning off your supporters.

What’s all this about being a fraud?
When you’re communicating, you want people to trust you, right? You don’t want them wondering if you’re legit.Turns out, there are specific cues that send a “I’m not being straight with you” message, including:

  • Using longer words
  • Using fewer unique words
  • Using lots of punctuation
  • Having lower readability
  • Being full of jargon

Are you making matters worse?
Based on research done by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, we know that one in three Americans lack faith in charities. What if you’re sending out those “I’m not being straight with you” cues without even knowing it?

From the Wordifier research, we know one thing that’s definitely making matters worse: on average nonprofits only use 810 unique words on their websites. That’s a mere .03% of the words available in the English language. Does the miniscule number of words nonprofits use reinforce mistrust?  As a sector, could we increase donors’ faith in charities by increasing the number of unique words we use?

So what can you do to increase trust?

Want a deeper dive?
Check out this report and this one for text analysis of fraudulent writing.

Also think about signing up for Claxon University–home of clear and compelling communication that raises awareness, increases donations, and does more good in the world!

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?