7 Words Your Nonprofit Should Avoid

7 Words Your Nonprofit Should Avoid


Using words and phrases that don’t really paint a vivid picture of what you want the reader to understand about your organization is a mistake many nonprofits make. We’ll go over some of these buzz words and catch phrases and give you some alternatives to use instead.

1. Unique

Whether it is a nonprofit or a for-profit organization, this word falls into the overused category. Additionally, in the case of a nonprofit, maybe it’s more important to demonstrate that what you have to offer is special or unique. If you are trying to solicit volunteers, for example, maybe show them how working with you will be a unique experience by sharing an inspiring quote from a current volunteer, but don’t call volunteering “a unique opportunity.”

2. Take action

On the surface this phrase sounds really powerful, but if you don’t define exactly what you want someone to do, it’s a waste. In other words, it doesn’t meet its intended purpose, which is to get people to act. Instead, try using clear and concise language to direct an audience to specific actions. For example: “Volunteer with Us!” Or “Make a Donation Now!”

3. More than ever

There may be times when your nonprofit needs help “more than ever” but don’t be tempted to use this phrase. Many people have reverted to using “more than ever” following a natural disaster. The issue with this phrase is that it has become so common that audiences no longer take it seriously. Instead of sing this phrase, try spelling out why it’s so urgent.

4. Community

This word is simply too vague. It can mean a specific neighbourhood, a city, or a small group of people who don’t necessarily live or work in the same, well community. Here’s one of the helpful writing tips that we’ve discovered: if you like a particular word, such as “community”, think about describing who or what makes up that community. For instance, instead of, “We help people in our community all year long”, you can try something like, “We work to provide food and housing for homeless people in Toronto all year long.”

5. Impact/Impactful

This word is just too vague and non-specific. Saying “Your support can have a big impact on the homeless”, for example, means nothing. “Change”, “Help” and “Transform” are some alternative verbs you can use, but they’re also pretty vague. Our suggestion is to try being specific with something like: “Your donation helps the homeless pay for food and shelter.”

6. In these economic times

So why is this on the list of words your nonprofit should avoid? When the economy is suffering or a country is going through a recession, you see this phrase a lot. However, if you really dissect these words, they make no sense together. Can times be economic? This phrase is actually meaningless. You can be a lot more effective by explaining how the current economy is affecting your organization and why people should make giving a priority, instead of clamping their wallets shut.

7. Underserved

There are a lot of organizations and communities that are underserved. The problem with using the word “underserved” is that is lacks emotion so it likely won’t have spark emotion in your audience. Words like “desperate”, “needy” and “destitute” are stronger. Words such as, “lonely”, “starving”, or “frightened” spark emotion.

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