Is your writing about expression or impression?

Old vintage typewriter, close-up.

Recently, I asked if your writing made people dream or think? I advocated for a combo meal–sometimes writing to make people think and sometimes to make them dream. Depending, of course, on audience and context, and where someone was vis-a-vis the Engagement Cycle.

Now I want to ask you this: is your writing simply an expression or does it, in fact, make an impression?

Umair Haque–economist, author and super smart dude–thinks it’s only about expression.

Umair Haque, writing

[If you don’t know Umair, he’s da bomb. He’s thought-provoking and insightful and has a way of making you re-think your world that is both frightening and liberating.]

For certain types of writing, Umair may be spot on. But when it comes to nonprofits and writing, the goal should be to express so that you impress. Anything less is time wasted.

There’s an opportunity to cost to writing, i.e. if you’re writing, you’re not doing something else. Nonprofits are trying to do so much with so little that opportunity costs are even more pronounced.

  • If you’re the Executive Director of a small nonprofit and you’re writing a grant, you’re not spending time with donors or meeting with program staff to fine-tune your after-school program.

All of the above-mentioned activities are critical. So if you’re spending time writing–whether it’s a grant, or web copy, or a blog post, or notes from a recent donor meeting, or whatever–that writing should get you somewhere. It should be good enough to impress the people–donors, volunteers, elected officials, advocates, board members, staff–who matter most to your organization at a given point in time.

As with all other activities your nonprofit takes on, writing should be about impact. It should be about moving people along the Engagement Cycle. It should elevate and advance your mission and your work. Anything less is simply expression without impression. 

Some resources to help you write impressively:

  1. The Wordifier helps you amplify your words.
  2. This post gives you tips for error-free writing.
  3. And Claxon University’s Words on a Mission course will guide you to words that will definitely impress.


Leading a million revolutions

Sometimes a piece of writing is so powerful in its elegance that it stops you in your tracks.

In a recent Harvard Business Review post, Umair Haque, wrote one of those pieces. It is a powerful call to action for anyone working to make the world a better place. The piece is called, How to Fix Your Soul. I’d strongly encourage you to read it in its entirety, but wanted to share this:

“I don’t want a revolution. I want a million tiny revolutions. Awakenings to the heart-stopping commandment life gives to the living: to believe in life. Weary and directionless in the desert we may be — yet, the future, a sunlit ocean, never ceases singing. Sometimes, all we have to do is listen.”

Which he follows with this:

“Each and every one of us is a leader. Some of us just don’t know it yet.”

Which mini-revolution are you, or will you, lead?

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?