Is your nonprofit using words as tactical instruments?

Not so long ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with Dana Van Nest on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to it here or read it here, whichever floats your boat!

Dana knows her way around words. She writes. A lot. And really well. She works with clients on a mission to make the world a better place.

The idea of words as tactical instruments sprung forth during our conversation. (You can practically see the words springing forth in service to your mission, can’t you?!)

Writing can sometimes come across as blob-like. A bunch of words. On a page. Milling about.

But if you think about words as tactical instruments, that’s a different (and I believe more actionable) way of thinking about writing. It shifts things so you’re focusing on the power of each word to advance you toward a specific goal.

If the end game for a newsletter, annual report, website, speech, or mission statement is to move someone–a donor, volunteer, client, customer, etc–closer toward a specific goal–donating, volunteering, or being served, to name just a few–each word counts. And each one has the power to get you one step closer to that goal. And those goals advance you toward your mission and your vision for making the world more awesome.

When used as tactical instruments, words become willing and loyal pawns in the chess game of making the world a better place.

How flippin’ cool is that?!!!!

If picking each word that carefully makes your palms sweat, here’s what you do: look at the verb in the first and last sentence of whatever you’re writing. Verbs are action words. Will the verbs in those two sentences get you closer to your goal? If so, super. If not, get some word-spiration from the Wordifier.

Want to get better results from your marketing…with less stress and more joy? Get on Claxon’s list and get actionable insights, tips, and tricks delivered directly to the comfort of your inbox!

Marketing Your Nonprofit Association (when things are totally weird)

Associations rely on membership dues to pay bills. They need to market the value of those dues. Nonprofit associations are no exception.

How do nonprofit associations market their value with less stress and more joy…during a global pandemic that has them working their tails off to serve nonprofits in their states and advocate their hearts out on behalf of the sector as a whole?!

That’s what I asked Brandy Strand of Utah Nonprofits Association when I had her on the Marketing for Good podcast.

Brandy had some terrific insights (and is a pint-sized joy bomb to boot!). I paired her insights with research on trends in association marketing and here are the two things I’d recommend nonprofit associations focus on to boost their marketing efforts:

#1: Put Out Responsive, Flexible Programming

One of the most striking things about my conversation with Brandy was how in tune they are with their members’ needs. They survey them regularly and get real-time feedback in a variety of ways. This means they can adapt their programming and make members happy.

When you’re thinking about content–especially things like webinars which in the past may have often only been available if someone showed up live–think about how flexible you can make it. Record things so folks can soak it up when it fits their schedule. This will delight members in a good way…and, you guessed it…get them talking about you.

Brandy and her team are doing this, getting very positive feedback, and also building out an entire resource library that will serve their members for years to come.

Course-correcting takes effort, yes. But it’ll pay off in multiple ways as you’ll see in #2.

#2: Fuel Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Right now, we are relying more than ever on trusted peers and colleagues for advice. If your programming is responding to members’ needs, they will be delighted! It’s tough sledding these days so we’re even more likely to talk about something delightful because it’s a break from the monotony and chaos of working from home during a global pandemic.

Word-of-mouth marketing is FREE MARKETING.

Make it easy for folks to talk you up. Now’s not the time for messaging that is clever, coy, or cute. Stick to the point. If someone has to think too hard to get your point, they’ll tap out rather than tune it.

Keep your messaging straight-forward and the Calls to Action (CTAs) in your marketing as clear as possible.

Examples: For advocacy, “Call Your Representative Today”. For a webinar, “Register Now”. And, of course, make it clear that although you’d love folks to join you live, it’ll be recorded so they’ll be able to watch the webinar whenever it strikes their fancy.

(When you listen to the podcast, you’ll hear that Brandy and I had different definitions for CTAs, which is why you always have to be careful when using acronyms!)

Also, make it easy to share your content. Have links/icons to all your social media handles. Don’t make anyone forage. We’re all too tired to forage (unless it’s to the back of the freezer for some huckleberry ice cream).

By the way, these tips apply to all nonprofits right now. Just swap out donors for members in #1, follow all the advice in #2, and you’ll be ahead of the curve.

For more marketing inspiration and motivation, listen to the Marketing for Good podcast wherever you enjoy your podcasts!

Brandy Strand, Director of Community Relationships, Utah Nonprofits Association…4’10” of nonprofit awesomeness!

#MarketingForGood Drawing

How to Enter to Win:

  • Go to wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Search for Marketing for Good.
  • Subscribe, rate, and review. (Trust me, it’s easy.)
  • Before submitting your review, TAKE A SCREENSHOT.
  • Post the screenshot on social media using the hashtag #MarketingForGood or email it to
  • For the next 4 weeks, we will randomly select one lucky reviewer who will receive a free 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree or a copy of Pitchfalls.
  • All reviewers will be entered into a Grand Prize Drawing to win a free Coaching Session with me. (A $425 value.)

All in, this should take you about 3 minutes, depending on how much time you take on your review. My advice: don’t overthink it. It’s a podcast review, not your annual report.🙂


How will you reach your supporters? [12 of 15]

How? Letterpress[This is part twelve of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

Last week, we started our discussion of “How” with some tips for developing your message. Now, it is time to talk about how to deliver that message to your supporters.

The next branch of the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree says:

List the top three ways (e. g. flyers, events, Facebook) you will reach your ideal supporters over the next year. Assign who will be in charge of making each one happen and by when. You can keep track of the assignments and tasks on our handy-dandy Mechanism Manager.

If you’ve made it this far through the series, I’m guessing you are a methodical planner anyway. I don’t need to explain to you that each marketing task needs a point person and a timeline lest is fade into the dark, back corner of the storage closet of good intentions. So, I’m just going to focus on that first sentence.

The two key points you will want to consider for marketing mechanisms are

  1. You need to limit the number of channels and
  2. You need to focus on reaching your ideal supporters.

Three mechanisms is a good rule of thumb. Maybe you can get away with two. Maybe you need, and have the resources to support, four. The key is to enforce limits so you aren’t over extended. It would be better to do a superb job on a single platform than to be vaguely present on a dozen.

If you, like me, are delighted at last Sunday’s return of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, you may enjoy this article on how he “won the internet.” How did he do it? By focusing on just YouTube and Twitter.

Though limited in its use of social media, Last Week Tonight further provides a quality of content within the social media outlets it engages. In so doing, it challenges the perception that total social media saturation is the best digital strategy.

It also doesn’t hurt that he is brilliant, funny, and covers important topics.

Putting the focus on your supporters rather than mechanisms themselves is a helpful way to narrow the number down. Think about them and how they are most likely to engage in accordance with your goals. It doesn’t matter how popular a social media platform is if your supporters aren’t there and engaging in the way you want. For example, I have social media accounts, but event invites never make it onto my calendar from there. If you want me to come to your event, send me an email. If you have researched your supporters, you should know how to reach them. Use the best mechanism for each target persona, use it well, and then be done.


Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie, is marketing for new students using three target personas. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story.) Each persona can be reached in a different way.

Ruth, the Rockin’ Robin:

Ruth frequents Mrs. Timberlake’s bird feeder to stay abreast of the latest gossip. Roxy has agreed to take on the task of networking there. She loves telling other birds about Chirp so this is a great task for her. Roxie’s plan is to visit the bird feeder at least three times a week and she has created a designed experiment to determine the time of day when the other birds are most likely to engage with her.

Charlie, the Copycat Catbird:

Charlie prefers to be short and to the point and so has started using Twitter. He would appreciate practical tips he can use in his day-to-day life. In order to highlight how cool words can be, Chirp will begin a Word of the Day series on Twitter, noting a useful word and explaining its definition. Myrtle the duck will be leading this effort. She has agreed to post 5 times a week. To ease her task of thinking up words to post, she will be asking her fellow Chirp teachers to suggest words she can use.

Olivia, the Observant Owl:

Olivia plans to attend the annual parliament meeting of owls. Albert the owl will be attending this year to represent Chirp and extol to fabulous learning opportunities at the school. He expects to be able to recruit many of his fellow owls.

What is your message [11 of 15]

How? Letterpress[This is part eleven of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

We’ve covered “What” and “Who”. It’s finally time to work on “How”!

In the first part of the “How”, we tackle messaging.  Here’s what we’ll do:

  • Finish this sentence: We want to be known as the organization that…
  • Imagine you are at a cocktail party. What would you say if an ideal supporter asked: “What do you do?”
  • Describe your organization in 140 characters or less.

As you know from previous posts in this series, good messaging is rooted in a detailed understanding of what your organization does, targets specific supporters, and uses engaging words. But how do you actually create compelling messaging, you wonder? Good question. The 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree is here to help.

Let’s look at tree branch 3B. What do you say when someone asks, “What do you do?” This question has an unfortunate tendency to elicit lists of activities that make the listener’s eyes glaze over. There’s no reason you need to fall into that trap, however. Instead, pretend they asked, “What does your organization want to be known for?” This answer aligns with the first stop on the Engagement Cycle and is also your answer to 3A. As you develop ways to answer this question, keep your answer to 140 characters or less because that is the length people can remember (and repeat!)

If you’re reading this blog, you likely know that Claxon has a plethora of resources to help you craft messaging worthy of your organization. Here are just a few highlights:

Words, Words, Words!

  • The Wordifier is Claxon’s new tool that helps you amplify your words. The human brain is wired to pay attention to new information and ignore the old. We stop noticing the same, tired word. So, if you use the same word a lot, or a word that is used by a lot of other organizations, people will notice it less than one they don’t see very often. The Wordifier will tell you if a word is overused and it even gives you a breakdown by sub-section. Go give it a try.
  • The Language Lab is our new podcast. Sign up and every week you’ll receive a lovely little audio prompt to reflect on language and life.

Mission Statements

  • Whether you are officially writing a mission statement or coming up with a version to use in your messaging, we have some great makeover tips.
  • We didn’t invent reading ease scores, but we wish we had because we love to use them! You have heard advice like, “Your mission statement should only be one sentence.” The only problem with this advice is that sometimes people try to strain the limits of punctuation to cram as many words as possible into that sentence and end up with an incomprehensible mess. You won’t have this problem though because you can use reading ease scores to make sure your mission statement is understandable…rather than, gulp, technically incomprehensible like the ones in this post.
  • Follow this blog to get regular tips so you don’t use lame verbs like provide or mobilize.



  • Need some extra help? Our chief word nerd, Erica Mills, would love to be your coach. She can work with you one on one or we have group coaching sessions available. (The Winter session is full but you can get on the wait list for the Spring session, which will start in April.)


Let’s take a look at the messaging developed by Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story and follow links for demographic research.)

Mission Statement:

Chirp’s original mission statement is

To mobilize all birds everywhere; regardless of feather size, shape, color, or water repellency; by providing a first class educational experience in language arts which can empower them to talk to other birds with different (valued) experiences and viewpoints, ensuring optimal diversity, effectiveness, and sustainability for the bird community.

Yikes! That is cumbersome and it scores as a 12th grade reading level. Let’s see how they cleaned up that train wreck.

First, they tried starting with what they had and cutting out the unnecessary laundry lists, parenthetical asides, and things that just aren’t core to what Chirp does.

To mobilize all birds everywhere by providing an educational experience in language arts which can empower them to talk to other birds.

This is a little more concise and the reading ease score is improving a bit, but it is still at a 12th grade level. To help with this, they focused on reworking some of those big words and made educate the primary verb.

To educate birds and empower them to talk to other birds.

The grade level is down to 5.8 now, but it feels awkward. Then they remembered the earlier work they did on the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree. What is the most important thing they do?

To teach birds how to use words to communicate with other flocks.

This works a bit better as a mission statement and has a grade level score of 4.8. They checked the Wordifier and found that “teach,” “educate,” “talk,” and “communicate” are all in the yellow category. This means that they are used a lot. It would be better to use verbs that aren’t so common, but at least none of them are in the red category. Between “teach” and “educate,” “teach” is easier to say so they are sticking with that. “Talk” is a simpler word than “communicate,” but they felt that the two directional relationship implied in communicate helped the mission statement feel more engaging.


Chirp knows that the important thing about pitches is that you need more than one. You need something short and sweet you can use to introduce yourself, a bit more information if they are interested so they can understand you, then a pitch that will engage them in your work. You also need to tailor your pitches to different target audiences. Let’s look at how Chirp can shape its mission into pitches for different situations with its personas.

Ruth, the Rockin’ Robin:

  • Know pitch: We teach birds how to talk with birds in other flocks.
  • Understand: We do this by sharing how to use new words.
  • Engage: After completing our program, birds like you are able to use words to make new friends.

Charlie, the Copycat Catbird:

  • Know pitch: We teach birds how to be understood by birds in other flocks.
  • Understand: We do this by instructing them how to use new words.
  • Engage: After completing our program, birds like you are able to use words to make themselves heard clearly.

Olivia, the Observant Owl:

  • Know pitch: We educate birds in effective word use.
  • Understand: We do this by teaching how to use new words and avoid jargon.
  • Engage: After completing our program, birds like you have a rich vocabulary and the language knowledge necessary to learn from foreign birds.

Next week, we’ll be looking at the mechanisms you can use to spread your message…Facebook and Instagram and brochures, oh my!

Who is your ideal supporter? [10 of 15]

think,design[This is part ten of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

Let’s talk about mind reading, shall we?

The next branch of the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree asks us to get in the heads of our ideal supporters. Specifically, it says:

Based on what you know of your best supporters, describe your ideal one.

This step is very, very, very important. Here’s why: When creating marketing materials, our natural inclination is to assume everyone has the same preferences as we do, and we design our materials accordingly. This is an erroneous assumption and a costly mistake. Because, turns out, your supporters aren’t necessarily motivated by the same things as you, nor do they behave like you do.

Luckily, you have a super power that can help you avoid making this extra super bad mistake. You can read minds.

You perform this amazing feat, called theory of mind, by holding a mental model of the mind you are reading in your own head. Imagine sharing good news with a friend. Do you think they will be happy for you? Can’t you just see how their face will light up? You may even have an idea of what they will say. When you do this, you are creating a simulation of their mind and you can then read that simulated mind whenever you want. Admittedly, this isn’t quite as cool as actually being able to read their mind, but it is still pretty cool.

Geeky neuroscience tidbit: Many scientists think that we learn how to do this because of mirror neurons, which are super interesting and the reason you wince when you see someone else getting a paper cut. Whenever you see something happen to someone else, this part of your brain responds in the same way you would if it had happened to you, which can help you understand how someone else might be feeling.

So what does all this mind reading have to do with your marketing materials? Now that you have learned this trick, the nifty thing is that these minds you can read don’t have to be based on real people. If you have ever read a book and come to feel like you know the characters, you know what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is creating a persona. A persona is a fictional character based on your target audience. The idea is to include enough details, like career aspirations and relationships, that you can develop a mental model for how your persona thinks and acts. Like the author of your favorite book, make the characters vivid in your mind. Then, as you are developing messaging and prioritizing mechanisms, you won’t be stuck in your own head, but rather that of the person you are trying to engage. .

In developing personas, it is important to base them on good research so that the mental model you create is relevant and useful. (See previous posts on your best supporters and who else you need to reach.) Hubspot has a fabulous free template to help you get started.


Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie, wants to recruit new students. Let’s look at the personas created by the leadership team. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story and follow links for demographic research.)

Ruth, the Rockin’ Robin:

Background & Habitat:

  • Busy, young mother of three
  • Makes herself at home in a variety of habitats from gardens to woods.
  • Frequents Mrs. Timberlake’s bird feeder to stay abreast of the latest gossip


  • Warm and cheery
  • The quintessential early bird
  • Industrious
  • Curious Explorer

Goals & Challenges:

  • Needs to collect worms for her chicks
  • Concerned about nest safety
  • Struggles with addiction to honeysuckle berries
  • Wishes she had more time to chat with friends

Relevance to Chirp:

  • Curiosity will make her open to learning new things
  • Social connections will help spread the word about the school

Charlie, the Copycat Catbird:

Background & Habitat:

  • Proud owner of his own thicket
  • Vacations in Mexico


  • Enjoys imitating the songs of other birds, frogs, and even mechanical sounds
  • Energetic and hardworking
  • Keeps to himself
  • Most comfortable in his gray, respectable suit
  • Not afraid to ruffle a few feathers to get a job done
  • Prefers to be short and to the point and so has started using Twitter

Goals & Challenges:

  • Is considering a move and eyeing a new development by a recently abandoned barn
  • Wants to makes sure he clearly communicates the boundaries of his territory
  • Likes learning new songs

Relevance to Chirp:

  • Already shows aptitude for learning new words
  • Has practical reasons for wanting to communicate better
  • Not as social as most previous students and so will be a good test case for the school

Olivia, the Observant Owl:

Background & Habitat:

  • Living in a barn which she is renting from a farmer in exchange for keeping rats away from the grain stores
  • Married for 12 years
  • Empty nester


  • Observant and thoughtful
  • Foodie who enjoys analyzing what she has eaten
  • Values knowledge
  • Careful listener
  • Avid recycler

Goals & Challenges:

  • Wants learn new things but struggles to find ways to expose herself to novel perspectives
  • Plans to attend the annual parliament meeting
  • Wishes she could communicate better in discussion groups

Relevance to Chirp:

  • Will be a careful student and may be a good prospective teacher in the future
  • Will solidify connection to owl community through Chirp co-founder Albert the Owl.
  • As their first student who is a bird of prey, Olive is a significant stretch for Chirp and will be a valuable learning experience

As Chirp moves forward in developing its messaging, the team will make sure they are optimizing their message so it resonates with Ruth, Charlie, and Olive. Then, in the spirit of  “meet them where they’re at”, the Chirp team will pick the mechanisms  their target personas prefer/already use. For example, when Albert goes to the owl parliament to network, he will want to the pitches he uses to be targeted to Olivia. And, any notices posted at Mrs. Timberlake’s birdfeeder should be tailored to appeal to Ruth. And, of course, they will use Twitter as a way to connect with Charlie because that bird is already tweeting his heart out.

Personas are a great tool for evaluating options and predicting how people will react to you. They are only as helpful as they are representative of the people you want to reach however, so make sure you do your homework. Next week we will move on to developing messaging and will want to make sure the message resonates with the personas for whom you are optimizing your marketing efforts.

Who else do you need to reach? [9 of 15]

Support[This is part nine of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

Last week we discussed your supporters. This week, we are going to wade into murky waters and discuss people who aren’t your supporters. What do you do when you want to reach people who aren’t like your current supporters? Ask yourself if you really do need to reach them and then think long and hard about your answer.

There are three basic cases where you might be thinking of reaching outside of your current sphere.

Case #1: You need to reach a new demographic.

First, make sure you are clear on why you need this new demographic. Is it a good reason? Is it connected to the purpose and strategy of your organization? You will have to work harder to get a new type of supporter. Will the return be worth the investment? Notice the difference between, “We need more Spanish speaking volunteers because so many of our clients speak only Spanish” and “We need a lesbian on our board to improve diversity.” (True story.)

Second, be realistic. If you can target a new demographic that is only a bit of a shift, that’s going to be much easier for you.

Then, research. Lots of research. It is always hard to get out of your own head and look at things from another’s perspective. It’s a much harder task when you don’t have a lot of experience with the other person.

Case #2: You want to raise public awareness.

Don’t do this.

Seriously, don’t. The general public is too broad and vague a target. Be specific. The more focused your efforts are, the more effective you will be. Even if you need to eventually get your message to as broad an audience as possible, break it up into smaller steps.

Approach this as in Case #1. What is a new demographic that shares some characteristics with current supporters? Who could help connect you with a broader audience as you continue to expand your demographic reach in the future?

Erica uses an example of a campaign to stop texting while driving and objects that this isn’t about general awareness, it is about stopping people from texting. I’ll add to that objection that the target isn’t everyone, it is people who text while driving.

When you get to how you are going to reach your targets, you may find that it is more effort than it is worth to differentiate your target from the general public, but that question comes later. You aren’t doing yourself any favors to assume you won’t be able to differentiate or to forget who your real target is.

Case #3: You want to reach opponents.

Caution! Do you need to do this? If not, this is a waste of your precious time.

Usually you don’t actually need to do this. But, some people, not nearly as clever you, get sucked into trying to woo people who just aren’t interested. Their cause is so important that they just can’t imagine how anyone could not support it.

Anytime you see something weird, your brain is drawn to it. At Claxon, we like to talk about how you can use that fact to improve your messaging by making sure your words are interesting. But, don’t let that same tendency be your own downfall. Yes, I know it is super weird that someone wouldn’t believe in what you are doing, but let it go.

If you are struggling with this, Claxon has a handy tool called the Belief-o-Meter that helps you figure out who you should be focusing on and who you should leave alone.

There are rare cases where you do need to convert the opposition. This is usually because your strategy requires support from a significant percentage of the population as with advocacy campaigns or boycotts. If this is you, take everything I said about case #1 and amplify it. Do even more research. Be even more realistic. If you just need someone to not oppose you, be satisfied with that. Don’t expect them to become donors. And, then do some more research.

An interesting, headline grabbing example is same-sex marriage. Freedom to Marry’s goal is to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. They are changing hearts across the nation so that the US Supreme Court will feel comfortable ruling in favor of marriage equality. To do this, they need to reach the opposition.

Why do they talk about freedom to marry instead of marriage equality? Because their opposition responds more favorably to the phrase “freedom to marry.” They know this because they did lots and lots of research. And it’s working. After state campaigns started using their research, in 2012 the general populations of not one, but four states, became the first to vote in favor of freedom to marry.

Freedom to Marry has put in a lot of hard work, resources, and research time. And they have been realistic. They are asking people who have opposed them to change how the respond to polls, not expecting new donors. The investment required to reach the opposition has been enormous, but it is necessary for their mission and strategy.

Example: Chirp

Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie, needs to reach a new demographic. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story.)

After surveying their students, they learned that there was more interest in social mixing between different flocks than they had thought. This was very encouraging, but they also came to a concerning realization. All of their current students are birds that tend to flock. They want to reach all birds, but what about solitary birds? Could these birds be reached? Difficult decisions needed to be made. The leadership of Chirp decided to be realistic about their ability to grow into such a different market space. For this year’s marketing campaign they will target new types of flocking birds.

More research is needed before they can understand the needs and interests of their more solitary brethren. Owls typically roost alone or as a pair. However, they do occasionally flock and so are a good target audience for Chirp’s next phase of expansion. Albert the Owl has agreed to lead research efforts and will be traveling to the next parliament. (Don’t you just adore collective nouns?)

In sum…
Before you try to reach beyond your supporters, make sure you really do need to and be prepared for it to take extra effort. Next time we will be back to talking about supporters as we describe your ideal one and develop personas.

What are the very best verbs for year-end fundraising?

WordifierLogo_noClaxonSupport. Give. Donate. Which one is best for year-end fundraising (including #GivingTuesday)?

The answer, of course (and annoying as it is) is–it depends.

As you can see, all of them show up in the red category, meaning they’re used a whole heckuva a lot. So that’s not so awesome. #Drat And they’re used pretty equally by all sub-sectors. #DoubleDrat

Let’s look at results for support:











For give:











And for donate:












But don’t despair! There’s a litany of data that drives The Wordifier–the tool itself is just the tip of a worderific iceberg!–so I took a look at the individual results:

  • Support is used most often
  • Give second most often
  • Donate third most often…by a pretty wide  margin

So, if you’re wondering which word would stand out the most, it would be ‘donate’. Because it’s used the least. But it’s kind of a blah word.

‘Give’ is used way more often than ‘donate’, but it has the virtue of being direct. Even directive. So when coupled with something like ‘now’ (e.g. Give now), it could be an excellent call to action because people tend to respond well to simple, direct language, especially on social media.

There’s not much to recommend support as a verb to use in your year-end fundraising efforts (or your fundraising efforts period). It’s vague, over-used and boooooooring.

The Wordifier can be a great tool for seeing if you’re using the best words possible. But it’s only one tool among many that you should use. Two others I swear by are:

  • The Hemmingway app, which is based largely, although not exclusively, on the Flesch Kincaide Reading Ease research.
  • The Headline Analyzer from the Advanced Marketing Institute. I just discovered this one and it’s–wow–super spiffy.

Now you can venture forth armed with data to drive your verb-erific decision-making. Verb on, my friends, verb on!


Please welcome Vicki Williams!

Tessa SrebVicki Williams, Claxonro, who has been our intrepid and fearless intern for the past six months, left some very big shoes to fill for her successor…but Vicki Williams is up to the task!

Vicki brings some mad stats and research skillz to the Claxon team. In two short weeks, she has sliced and diced data, schooled us in stats (confidence intervals, anyone?), and introduced me to a new word with which I have instantly fallen in love and will try to use whenever possible because it’s so darn fun to say–abecedarian. (Go ahead, say it out loud. Fun!)

Vicki will be building on the Marketplace of Words research, which is primary research we’re doing to see which words nonprofits use most often, so you can know which words to embrace and which to avoid.) Tessa did the first round of research and, trust me, it’s beyond cool. Vicki will work her magic to evolve that work, making it even more awesome and useful for nonprofits.

Welcome to the Claxon team, Vicki–we’re thrilled to have you on board!



Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?