What is “Charitable Words”?

5 years, 8 months ago 3
Posted in: Blog

I was a writer, editor and journalism teacher for a long time. So I suppose I know words. Since retiring from that, I’ve entered the world of volunteerism and nonprofit work. I have a lot to learn. But I hope I may have some skills and experience to offer along the way.

So here I am, with many friends helping, with Charitable Words. Our goal is to help connect the worlds of communication and causes.

It was a privilege to have a front-row seat to the first rough drafts of history in small towns, great cities, the nation’s capital and elsewhere in the world. But with that life came constraints.  Journalists are discouraged from taking sides (like that has worked), joining causes or talking about their party affiliations.

The “objective me” endured. The publications and web sites I worked for reached millions over the years.  But the subjective me longed to be heard about matters I cared deeply about. Working for newspapers with editorial page positions that did not align with my core contributed to unfulfillment at the end.

I am free now.

Since leaving the media, I have become involved in volunteer and board work at the local, national and international levels.  I have been an outsider but welcomed well. One thing journalists learn is to ask the questions everyone else in a room is thinking about but reluctant to ask.  That’s what I do, without fear. It is not a personality trait. It is a skill, a craft hard-learned. And making sense of the answers is yet another.  Enough about me.

Here’s the Charitable Words agenda:

The nonprofit sector too often exists in an echo chamber, using insider jargon, acronyms and three-syllable words to impress one another while potential supporters and funders scratch their heads and say “Huh? But what do you do?”

The communication world is changing.  Audiences are fragmented,  attention spans short and information platforms abundant. Watching for trends, tips and best practices — success stories, well told — will be a priority.

Finally, my passion: The nonprofit sector is constrained by a double standard that society – and the media – applies to humanitarian and for-profit ventures. If a for-profit venture competes for strong executive leadership, invests in infrastructure, incurs any costs to grow, it is seen as enlightened and innovative. Risk-taking to build a business for the long term is a good thing. But if a nonprofit dabbles in what is termed “capability building” that does not go directly to “programs,” it is pummeled for its overhead costs.

Editors and news producers pull out the shallow pie chart graphics. The public buys into it. Donors and supporters dwindle and disappear.  Kids don’t get taught, the hungry go unfed, the elderly uncared for. That’s unfair. That’s just wrong.

Charitable Words hopes to help nonprofits – and other common community causes – tell their stories clearly, concisely and convincingly.  Fearlessly, even. There is important work to be done, important stories to tell.

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