Amplify Your Message
FAQ and Methodology
What's the big idea?
In English, there are approximately 250,000 words. If everyone uses the same word, the value of that particular word goes down. Why? Because 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.
Translation: If you’re not getting you the results you want, make sure you’re using words that other organizations aren’t using. That way, more people will notice you, engage with you, and (eventually) support you.
But how is a person like you to know if a word is used a lot by nonprofits or not? We wondered the exact same thing and decided to do some research to find out.
What did we research, exactly?
We selected 2,503 nonprofit organizations at random. They represent a wide variety of sub-sectors, budget sizes, and geographic regions.
Those organizations used a grand total of 15,469,368 (ish) words on their websites. We analyzed all those words. We took out function words like ‘a’, ‘the’, and ‘but’ since we have to use those words for a sentence to (you guessed it) function. That way we could look exclusively at content words and see what the most frequently used adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs were. What we learned is that nonprofits are using only a fraction of the words available to them.
What do these findings mean for nonprofits?
That there are a whole lot of un-used words out there just waiting for you to use them!
Out of 250,000 words, a tiny fraction is actually being used. Think of the opportunity that presents for you. Our brains love novelty. It makes them light up and think happy thoughts. It triggers the release of chemicals that make someone want to learn more about whatever the neat, new thing is. That thing could be you, your work, your mission. And it all starts with a word.
What is that pie chart saying exactly?
The pie chart shows the contribution each sub-sector makes to the prevalence of this word.
Drilling down a bit, it’s a weighted percentage because some sub-sectors have more organizations than others and we didn’t want that to make it look like they were using a word more. If everyone is using a word about as much as everyone else, the chart will show all the pieces as equal. If we didn’t weight the percentages the chart would mimic the percentages for the number of websites in each sub-sector.
Another way of thinking about it is to ask: “percent of what?” It is the percent impact that sub-sector had on the total frequency for that word.
Why did you decide to look at 2,503 websites?
Given the number of nonprofits in the United States, looking at 2,503 allows us to generalize the results to the entire sector at a 95% confidence interval. Basically, it’s the number we needed to look at to feel comfortable saying, “Yes, these results hold true for the entire sector as whole.”
How did you pull the sample? Is it really, truly random?
It’s as random as it can be, given that a human had to be involved in vetting the urls. The websites were searched for by searching for the name. Obviously, any non profit without a website couldn’t be used, but we also excluded any that couldn’t be readily found using a search engine. Town and state names were used to distinguish multiple organizations with the same name, but not every nonprofit uses the address that is the same as the address of their registered agent. We also excluded foreign language websites (without English text, some foreign language was ok). All of this biases our sample in favor of organizations that are trying harder to get their message out to a broad US audience.