It’s Not You, It’s Me

I once worked with a nonprofit executive director who kept chiding me to get out of the way.

He wasn’t referring to my physical presence – he was referring to my storytelling. Coming from a traditional marketing background, I wanted to talk about ALL OF THE GREAT THINGS our nonprofit was doing. As a former editor and publisher, he knew that the more important, more inspiring stories lay outside our own organization in the people and communities we served.

Of course, he was absolutely correct. It took me a while to understand and internalize this “ego-less” communication. But wow is it powerful.

I was reminded of this recently when reading John Haydon, who writes about nonprofit social media strategy. He wrote a smart post recently titled “The One Simple Facebook Mistake Most Nonprofits Make.” His take? Get your supporters talking about the cause, instead of you talking about the nonprofit.

A few thoughts about organizations “broadcasting” vs. “engaging:”

  1. Broadcasting is seductive. We all want a megaphone. But think about your own communication consumption – do you routinely pay attention to megaphone brands? Probably not. So if your org/biz is doing the same thing, why would you expect others to pay attention?
  2. Getting out of your way and focusing on communicating the stories and causes that live outside yourself applies to any business  – not just nonprofits.
  3. If you can’t communicate your “cause” – no amount of social media or marketing communications will help you. You have to be crystal clear here so that are encouraging and activating the type of engagement that directly contributes to your program/product/service.
  4. If you don’t have a “cause” that inspires you – that matters – your battle is already lost. After all, if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, how can you expect others to be? Fix that.

So start with the problem your solving. Be clear with yourself your mission and vision. Be passionate about it. And then start talking about the folks around you – donors/buyers/evangelizers – who share and live your cause.

After all, their stories are more interesting than yours…



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