Can’t we do better than this one phrase?  Challenge yourself to a list of more compelling alternatives.

find-a-better-phrase-twenty-hats-jpegI have a pet peeve. Whenever I teach a persuasive writing class and ask students to write about the impact of their volunteer program, they all use the same expression.

“We make a difference”

Well yes, sure – we DO make a difference. That’s the bottom line for all volunteer work – and all nonprofits. That’s why we exist. To effect change, improve lives, and make a difference.

The problem is that there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States alone. And if we are all making a difference, how do we stand out from all the rest?

Not only that, science has shown that our brains ignore over-used phrases. That puts making a difference right at the top of the useless list. It’s a waste of time just to type the words.

So how do we communicate what’s different and special about our particular organization without resorting to clichés?

You may always start with a persona. I’ve blogged about personas before – no need to revisit here, except to say that they are a really fun way to get into the head of your ideal volunteer or donor.

But you might also turn to the one person who knows your program chapter and verse and has a huge investment in its success – you!

Take the challenge

I know very few volunteer managers or development directors who do not feel a sense of pride and personal connection to their workplaces. Chances are, you can come up with dozens of new phrases if you set yourself the 50 Reasons Challenge. Here how to do it:

  • Take a piece of paper. Write down at least 50 reasons why your nonprofit is valuable to the community.
  • Go ahead and put “we make a difference” as your first reason. That gets it out of the way!
  • Then, write down at least forty-nine other reasons. It may sound impossible at first, but you will be surprised to see that the reasons start to flow faster once you dig in. (hint: pay special attention to the way success in your program feels. Does it bring you warm fuzzies, pride – maybe even joy?)

By the time you finish, you will have identified dozens of new way to describe what’s appealing about your organization. And somewhere inside that list you fill find at least one terrific standout way to grab your prospect’s attention. And THAT makes a real difference.




New to Twenty Hats and looking for similar posts? Check out  Your Reader’s POV for another way to approach your persuasive writing. OR  email me for my Persona-building Template and I will also add you to the TH mailing list.


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Take this challenge and your #volunteer position announcement will stand out from the crowd, #volmgmt @THNonprofit