Stop “moving the needle.”

Not a week goes by that I do not hear a non-profit leader use the phrase “move the needle” to describe their organization’s current programming goals and deliverables.

Non-profits often wrestle with how to get the talk right about their mission and goals, and the overall effect their work has on the community. The struggle to answer the critical questions of “what do we do and why should the public care?” is real.

Jargon Fest.

In an effort to sound more business-minded, corporate-y phrases such as “move the needle,” “fueling impact” and “evidence-based” pepper non-profit talking points.

While buzzwords seem polished and on-trend, they do not actually help your stakeholders, board, volunteers, or advocates articulate your purpose (or write that check).

My challenge to you is this: for one week, ban marketing jargon from your talking points and actually say what you mean. If there was a prohibition on descriptive phrases and marketing lingo, could you articulate why you and your colleagues go to work each day?

Jargon Fast.

For one week: you are not going to “move the needle.” You are going to advance literacy rates by X percent over X years by deploying X and Y tactics.

For one week: you are not merely an “evidence-based organization.” You are an organization that offers relevant, timely, and thoughtful resources to X families because we know Y to be true.

For one week: you are not “fueling impact,” you are training, supporting and placing X more teachers in classrooms across the country.

In a crowed, noisy and competitive non-profit environment, the communications advantage goes to companies that can actually articulate a coherent, defensible message.

Is your approach really “leading-edge” or “unique?” Our passion for our cause is tireless, but our reliance on jargon is lazy.

For one just week, force yourself to talk about your mission, goals and outcomes without adjectives, adverbs or buzzwords. Straightforward communication may not be as sexy, but it does sell.


  1. says

    Loved this post! I find that straightforward explanations are also easier to remember when you find yourself explaining your work during that unexpected elevator-ride with a new person!

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