Use These Words With Caution – Advocate [#WordsThatWow]

#WordsThatWow[This is the next installment in our series explaining each of the words on our 2014 List of Words that Wow. Last time, we covered inspire and impact. Next up in the “Use with Caution” category is advocate.]

Advocate. It’s a word oft used in nonprofit work. Many of us may see ourselves as advocates for certain people or for the environment or for an animal that risks extinction. When asked what we do, many of us could (and would) start our sentences with, “I advocate for…”

When you use the word advocate, you likely want your listener to conjure up images of someone taking action and speaking up. It feels energetic and on the right side of justice.

The problem is, advocate–as a word–doesn’t really do that much for you. Advocate (the verb) means to “plead the case of another”. An advocate, therefore, is someone who pleads the case of another. Setting aside the fact that some people may interpret advocate as a euphemism for lobbying, which nonprofits know potentially gets you into sketchy territory, pleading just isn’t that compelling.

To those not immersed in the world of advocacy, advocating sounds, well, kinda dull.

Instead of being an advocate who advocates, be a champion who champions. It sounds fresh and new because it hasn’t been overused. And that’s really what we’re going for here. To get your cause noticed, you don’t want to talk about it in the same way that everyone else is, right? Right.

If ‘champion’ feels too “I just won an Olympic gold medal”, remember this: it’s always better to show what you are doing than to say that you are doing it. For instance, “We advocate for homeless populations” is not as powerful or descriptive as “We’re fixing the fact that more than 1,000 kids have to sleep on the street every night”.

If you only have a few words to tell people what you do, don’t plead. Say something that will compel them to action.