New (lower) price for Claxon U!

The Punch Line

The price for Claxon University’s on-line training–Words on a Mission–is now $425 if you pay up-front, or $40/month for 12 months.

The Rationale

We created Words on a Mission because we wanted as many non-profits, do-gooders, and mission-motivated trailblazers as possible to be able to learn how to create remarkable messaging.

We did it so communications conundrums could become a thing of the past.

We did it because we know that effective communications leads to engagement.

To more funds, and awareness, and good in the world.

That’s why we did it.

Claxon U “students” have knocked it out of the park when it comes to getting results. Totally awe-inspiring what they’ve accomplished.

We want those results for absolutely everyone. We want them for you.

But recently we had one of those moments. A moment when you realize if you’re going to achieve your vision, you need to course correct to get there.

At $949, Words on a Mission seemed fairly reasonably priced. It’s about $25,000 worth of consulting all wrapped up in a self-paced on-line training that anyone can do. Nifty.

But recently we did a webinar with Vu Le and the topic of professional development came up. We asked participants how much budget they had for professional development. We knew it wasn’t going to be much and–wowee– it is not a lot.

$949 isn’t doable, even for mid-size organizations. So we decided to do something about that.

We sat ourselves down and said, “If the goal is to get this into the hands of as many people as possible, how low can we go and not lose money?”

$425. That’s how low we can go.

So that’s the new price. $425 up front, or $40 per month for 12 months.

We had to trim down a few things to make this price doable. For instance, we’re no longer going to do on-line office hours. But you’ll still be able to ask questions via the private Facebook group, so you won’t ever be stuck and not have the support you need. We got your back.

If you’ve been on the fence about doing this training, hop off the fence and into the land of communications awesomeness! You know you’ve got it in you. We believe in you.

Let’s do this thing!

Do More Good in 2017 with These 6 Communication Tips

In 2014, I first joined Claxon as an eager intern. And last month, much to my delight, I rejoined the team to help non-profit rockstars improve their writing and communication skills.

During my time away from Claxon, I always tried to keep informed of what Erica and her awesome team of word nerds were talking about. Yet, I still missed some incredible advice. And if I missed it, then you may have too!

So, in honor of the fast-approaching New Year, I’ve compiled what I believe to be super valuable advice from the Claxon team. These blog posts, all published in 2016, will help you usher in the New Year right – with mad skills. The coolest part? Each post offers one easy-to-implement tip, so you can boost your communication competence right now.

Whether you’re looking to increase donations, tell a better story, or simply do more good, these posts will get you well on your way to reaching those 2017 non-profit communication goals.

So, pour yourself another cup of hot chocolate, get cozy, and read up!

  1. Should You Ask People to Help or Give?
    One little word can get more supporters actively on board for your cause.
  2. Nonprofit vs. Non-Profit: Does a Hyphen Make a Difference?
    Hint: Yes, it does.
  3. Raising Awareness isn’t a Goal
    Time to get specific about what you want your non-profit’s communication team to achieve.
  4. The Story of One. And Only One.
    Storytelling advice: Don’t overwhelm your potential supporters.
  5. Researched For You: Unit-Asking
    Once you’ve mastered the story of one, here’s how to scale it.

    Any finally…
  6. Don’t Be a Fraud
    Did you know your language choices can make or break your perceived trustworthiness?

On behalf of all of us here at Claxon, I wish you a happy, knowledge-filled New Year!

Announcing: Personal Branding, The Non-profit Edition [Webinar]

While we’re running around making sure our non-profit’s image stays in check, it’s easy to forget about something a bit more personal. I’ll give you a hint. It’s something Kim Kardashian has mastered, and arguably, made millions of $$ from doing so well.

I’m talking about creating a solid personal brand, and whether you know it or not, you have one. You may scoff: I’m not even 100% sure what a “personal brand” is, how can I have one?

Do a google search of your name (with your organization/ location, if you have a Jenn Jones-type of name.) What comes up? This is part of your personal brand. What does your cover photo look like on Twitter? What expression are you donning in your LinkedIn profile photo? These are also part of your personal brand.

It applies offline, too. What do your coworkers think when they think of [insert your name here]?

The good news? You’re not powerless when it comes to defining your personal brand. With just a little care, your personal brand can help you achieve your goals and be your happiest, most fulfilled self. If you’re in a public-facing role at your non-profit, it can also help you achieve your non-profit’s goals.

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve got your back here at Claxon. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to find the inner rock star we both know is inside of you. That’s why we’re offering a free webinar all about personal branding. And we’re doing it exclusively for non-profit professionals such as yourself.

When: January 25, 2017, 1-2 p.m PT/ 4-5 p.m. ET/ 3-4 p.m CT


Presented by: Erica Mills, Claxon’s CEO


Who Should Attend: Non-profit executive directors, communications staff, and other non-profit professionals who are either new to personal branding, or want to improve their personal brand.


What You’ll Learn:

  • Why you should actively care about your personal brand.
  • A super practical way to define your personal brand.
  • What your words say about your personal brand.
  • How the narrative, visual, and experiential aspects of your brand work together…and what bad things happen when they don’t.
  • How to be true to your personal brand in different contexts, including at work.

If you want 2017 to be a ridiculously successful year for you, join us for this webinar. By the end, Kim Kardashian will have nothing on you!

Disclaimer: We’re not necessarily huge fans of Kim Kardashian. In fact, we have some issues with her, to be honest. But the girl has nailed the personal branding thing. Plus, for better or worse, you likely know who she is. So we can reference her and most everyone will get the reference, which is harder to do than you might think.

I want to register!

What is marketing, anyway?

On the first day of my Nonprofit Marketing class at the Evans School, I ask my class of super-smart graduate students the following question: What is marketing?

Is it an art? Is it a science? Is it its own discipline? Or is it a sub-set of another discipline, e.g. sociology or behavioral economics or some such? I assign this piece to get their brains percolating.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no definitive answer. If you look up the definition of marketing, you get:

NOUN

  1. the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

VERB

  1. advertise or promote (something):
    “the product was marketed under the name “aspirin.””

    synonyms:sell · retail · vend · merchandise · trade · peddle · hawk ·

    [more]
    • offer for sale:
      “sheep farmers are still unable to market their lambs”
    • US
      buy or sell provisions in a market:
      “some people liked to do their marketing very early in the morning”

Helpful? Meh. Only a tidge. Mainly it reinforces the perception among nonprofits that marketing is a yucky activity, slimy, not something values-based, mission-driven people would want to do. Buying, selling, advertising, promoting? #Yuck

I offer this as an alternative definition specific to marketing in the nonprofit sector. Marketing is:

Strategically using resources to make sure as many people as possible
have the opportunity to create good in the world.

If you love what you do, if you’re passionate about your mission, why wouldn’t you want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to join you, to help you, to work with you, and for you? To create as much good in the world as possible?

By the way, by “resources”, I mean time, talent, passion, volition, and, yes, money. The intangibles–passion, enthusiasm, values–are a massive asset for nonprofits. And one that–in our super-charged, always-on, gotta-get-on-the-social-media-bandwagon–is often overlooked.

Marketing is a means to an end. It is a vehicle to advance mission. To raise money, engage volunteers, attract board members, promote programs. Advertising, social media, websites, brochures, annual reports, events–all ways to create more good in the world. Nothing yucky about it, if you think of it that way, now is there?

Post Readability Stats: Reading Ease: 53.2, Grade Level: 8.6

The Claxon Method

I love teaching. No scratch that. I love seeing people learn.

That moment when a student “gets it”? When they realize, “Hey, I can do this marketing thing! I can use words to get lots and lots of people engaged in the awesome work my organization is doing. That rocks!”? Unlike any other.

And that’s why I never get tired of teaching the Claxon Method™. It is the cornerstone of everything I teach, in fact. It helps students (and by “students”, I mean my graduate students at the Evans school, yes, but also nonprofit professionals who come to my training, or attend Claxon University, or work with me one-on-one) avoid the dreaded Shiny Object Syndrome. (I’m sorry, did someone say “Instagram”?)

The Claxon Method™ is simple and straight-forward. Know why? Because simple works.

Before you start working on a fundraising appeal, a brochure, website copy, or talking points for your gala, stop and ask (and answer) these three questions in order:

  1. WHAT does success look like?
  2. WHO do we need to reach in order to be successful?
  3. HOW are we going to reach our ideal supporters?

You can totally do that, right? Simple.

The logic of the Claxon Method™ is as follows: You must always start with the end in mind. It might be increasing donor retention or growing your board or promoting a new program. The job of your marketing is to advance you toward whatever your goal may be.

With a goal clearly in mind, you can then figure out for whom you are optimizing. As alluring as it seems, “the general public” is not a target audience. Not everyone will care equally about your cause and/or be in a position to advance you toward your goal.

Audience identification allows you to select messaging and mechanisms that will resonate with a particular target audience. It will also prevent you from projecting, i.e. assuming, for instance, the words that resonate with them are the same ones that will resonate with their target audience. This is a costly, and all too frequent, mistake.

Once you have identified your goal and audience, you can figure out how to reach them. Which boils to: which words will you use and where will you put them?

Marketing can get unruly. There are so many options these days. Stick to this method and you’ll get results. Serious results. I promise.

Want to master the Claxon Method™? Check out our on-line class at Claxon University, where we offer a 30 day no-questions-asked money back guarantee. What do you have to lose?!

Post Readability Stats: Reading Ease: 71.9, Grade Level: 5.7

Raising Awareness isn’t a goal

Poll ResultsGearing up for Claxon’s webinar on October 12, I was reminded of the somewhat troubling poll results from the last webinar. I had asked what everyone’s top goal was for the year. Not surprisingly, fundraising topped the list with 60%. Nothing troubling or surprising about that.

The troubling part comes in with the Raising Awareness results. 22% said this was their top goal. (See pie chart for details.)

You might be saying, “What’s wrong with that, Erica? You have to raise awareness in order to raise money, recruit volunteers, attract amazing staff. That’s a legit goal.”

Raising awareness for the sake of it is a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong: I am all for raising awareness…so long as you are very clear on what, specifically, raising awareness is going to do for you. Think of raising awareness as a pre-cursor to other goals, i.e. you raise awareness so that you can achieve other goals.

You raise awareness so that:

  • You can increase year-end donations by 175%.
  • You can recruit 3 new absolutely awesome board members.
  • You can land a 5 year, $500,000 grant.

As you set out to set your goals, remember the Claxon Method:

  1. WHAT does success look like?
  2. WHO do you need to reach in order to be successful?
  3. HOW are you going to reach your ideal supporters?

If you don’t set a SMART goal in response to #1, you can’t identify your target audience (#2), and then it’s a crap shoot on what messaging and mechanisms will work for #3. Crap shoots may be fun, but they aren’t strategic.

Goal-setting may not be glamorous, but it’s suuuuuuuuper important. And that’s why we’re going to talk about how to apply SMART goal-setting to your year-end fundraising on the October 12 webinar. (We’ll also talk about fun stuff like calls-to-action and which stories will be the most powerful and whatnot. Didn’t want you thinking it was going to dull. Never!)

Be sure to sign up for your spot!
sign me up

 
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Reading Ease: 67.8, Grade Level: 6.7

FREE WEBINAR: Put your Words on a Mission

Claxon University is hosting our first-ever FREE webinar on August 24 at 1pm PST. Will you join me? I’d love that.

If you’ll be on vacation that day, don’t sweat it. Enjoy it! Sign up today, and you can listen to the recording when you’re back…refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to get your communications in tip-top shape.

Now, what will you learn in this webinar that you might not already know?

  • The biggest messaging mistakes I see nonprofits make again and again. And then I’m going to tell you how to avoid and/or fix them.
  • How to make simple tweaks to your writing that’ll make people go, “Woah, wait. What are you doing? I want in on that!”
  • How to get into the minds, and hearts, of your most important audiences. Think donors and staff and board members and volunteers. (And then think about donors again because, well, they’re important.)
  • Etc, etc, etc.

This won’t be an “oh let me just turn this on and listen in the background” webinar. This is going to be a “oh let me have both hands free so I can take copious notes” type of thing. There will be time for Q&A, so you will also be able to get your burning questions answered on the spot.

Whether you join me live on August 24 at 1pm PST, or via recording post-vacay, I really encourage you to sign up for this webinar. It’s free. So pretty much a no-risk proposition. And you’ll learn a ton. The Claxon Team has continued to do research, and find out new things, and by August 24, we’ll be ready to share all our newfound knowledge with YOU.

 

Totally Irrational

[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]

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The one thing you need to know: 

Don’t mention all the people/puppies/trees that someone’s donation will fall short of helping. Focus on what it will help.

So, what’s the deal?

We’re totally irrational about our charitable giving. We like to think we’re rational. But when it comes down to it, we’re just not. (My fave piece on this is Homer Simpson for Nonprofits.)

This plays out in a bunch of different ways. But one specific way has to do with how you frame your stories. Per the last Language Lab post, you’re writing stories that shine a bright light on one super amazing person (or puppy…I’ll stop with the puppies now) that a donor could help, right? Right.

It’s oh-so-tempting to mention that there are other people who also need help. Big, epic social issues generally involve more than one person. Feels weird not to mention the other people. But do so at your own peril. Because as soon as you mention all the others–zap!–all the magic disappears.

The donor is now focused on the unmet need. They get sad and unhappy. They feel like their donation couldn’t possibly make a difference so what’s the point? Instead of making a donation, they drag themselves to the nearest Starbucks and drown their charitable sorrows in a double tall, split shot vanilla latte made with organic, wholesome milk.

For the same price that they just spent on their latte, the donor could’ve made a difference in someone’s life. But they no longer felt like they could.

Hot Tips

  • If you’re going to mention more than one person, adhere to WJ Lecky’s idea of an expanding circle. It starts with the individual and then goes to the family then the community, etc. Unify more people together into one as you go.
  • Harken back to what you learned about unit-asking. If you need to show the larger context, ask your supporter to think about what they would give to help one person first. Then–and only then–expand to more people.
  • Riff on the Starfish & the Boy story. (The little boy sure teaches the sourpuss man a thing or two, doesn’t he?)
  • Or riff on: “To the world, you may be but one person. But to one person, you may be the world.”

P.S. Countdown to Fall Quarter at Claxon University is on: only 76 days left. Unleash your awesome this fall! (These fine folks did. You can, too.)

The Story of One. And Only One.

[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]

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In the last Language Lab, we talked about how oxytocin and dopamine generate generosity. I said there was more to say about oxytocin and storytelling. Here’s the more.

The One Thing You Need to Know: Tell stories about one person. Not thousands of people. Or hundreds of people. Or even two people. One person. Singular.

Why One Works
You’ve likely heard the saying: “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” (Who said this first is up for debate, by the way.) These are words to live by if you’re looking to get people jazzed about your world-changing work.

But why? The arithmetic of compassion. That’s why.

Watch this:

  • Visualize one puppy
  • Now visualize 1,000 puppies

Which visual was stronger? Likely the one of the one puppy. Your brain could fill in all the adorable details–her brown eyes, her black, twitching nose, her cinnamon colored, white speckled ears. Oooooooohhhh. Adorbs!

What about the image of the 1000 puppies? Still cute. Cuz they’re puppies. But fuzzy. Lacking details. Just a mass of puppiness.

Fuzzy masses aren’t compelling.

Bonus Bit: Not only do people respond more to one person/puppy, they feel better when they’ve helped that one person/puppy. So by telling the Story of One, you not only grab people’s attention more easily, but–if it comes to pass that they donate–they feel better about their donation. (Can you say “win/win”?)

Important Stuff

Countdown to Fall Quarter at Claxon University has begun: only 88 days left. Unleash your awesome this fall! (These fine folks did. You can, too.)

Love Drug or Moral Molecule?

[The Language Lab makes it easy for you to put research to work for you and your mission. Each installment gives you research-backed intel on one specific way you can work happier, smarter, and more effectively. To stay in the know, sign up to get Language Lab missives delivered directly to your inbox.]

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The One Thing You Need to Know: You will be more successful if you create trust with your donors/supporters/other important people in your life by avoiding jargon and using easy-to-understand language.

RELEASE THE DRUGS*

Look at this picture. Soak it in.

Look at those two. Cute, right? Want to know something neat? That mum’s brain is awash in a chemical called ‘oxytocin’. Mmmmmm….oxytocin. Frequently referred to as the Love Drug, oxytocin makes us feel happy, nice, and generous.

But here’s the really important thing about oxytocin as it relates specifically to doing more good in the world: oxytocin it’s not just the Love Drug, it’s the Moral Molecule.

You see, we get all those happy, snuggly, generous feelings when social bonding occurs. Super smartie Paul Zak’s coined the term, “The Moral Molecule”. He wrote a book by the same name. In it, he explains that social bonding occurs when you trust someone. The person on the receiving end of a trust-inducing gesture reciprocates trust and also pays it forward. And–voila–you have a generosity fueling trust-fest. See how that could be useful for you?!

Neat news: you can initiate feelings of trust by doing exactly the same things I recommended you do not seem like a fraud. To review:

There’s actually another cool thing to know about oxytocin and its (practically) magical ability to get people psyched about your work. Oxytocin explains why telling a story that focuses on one person in need, vs. lots o’ people in need, works so well. But I think we’ve covered enough for today. We’ll cover the Story of One research in the next Language Lab, okay?

Want a deeper dive?

Check out Paul Zak’s piece on what narrative exposure (yes, that’s an actual term) has to do with charitable giving.

Also think about signing up for Claxon University–home of clear and compelling communication that raises awareness, increases, and does more good in the world. Fall Quarter registration is now open!

*Technically, a drug is a foreign substance that you introduce into the body. So, if you make it yourself it isn’t a drug. It’s a chemical. But “Release the Chemicals” wasn’t as zippy. And hey, check you out. Reading the fine print. Way to go, word nerd!