Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is Your Nonprofit Starving to be Politically Correct?

I recently came across this article in the Nonprofit Times talking about food banks changing the way they refer to their audience, while trying to raise funds to serve that very population.

Don't call them poor - they are economically challenged.

They aren't starving -- they are food insecure.

Guess which cause people are willing to donate to? The one that helps poor and starving people, not the one serving economically-challenged, food-insecure people.

The author's point is that we shouldn't focus so much energy on how to phrase your mission and those you serve, worry most about serving them. Because whether or not they are food insecure or starving, they are in trouble and need your help.

This could be expanded out to so many other nonprofits than just food banks. Easter Seals, Courage Center, Gillette and so many others are challenged in talking about our collective audience, people with disabilities. Note that they are not disabled people (the disability does not define the person), and never used the "h" word (handicapped). I am still becoming immersed in the way in which we speak of our patients and the crafting of the language in speaking of the challenges they face.

This is the dichotomy that many nonprofits face, be it serving the poor (economically-challenged), the handicapped (gasp), the illiterate (are they literacy-challenged?), the blind (non-seeing), etc. There is a way in which the organizations need to address their service population and another way that they need to talk about them in gaining donors support for them.

Make sure you don't spend all your day talking the talk without walking the walk.

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