Words to Avoid in Nonprofit Emails and Social Media

Words to Avoid in Nonprofit Emails and Social Media

Words to Avoid in Nonprofit Emails and Social Media

John Brandon outlines the ten trigger words that he dislikes in emails. The words that he mentions are marketing-specific, and most nonprofit professionals have similar words that produce frustration. Below are a few trigger words that we see in emails and social media:


If your email begins with “Hello friend,” then you’re not using your email or data management tools effectively. Using the term “friend” communicates that you either don’t know the recipient’s name or didn’t take the time to connect their name to their record in your email database. Obviously, many organizations struggle with data management issues. If you’re unable to connect an individual’s record with their correct first name then simply say hello or skip the greeting entirely.


Creating a sense of urgency is important for many email and social media campaigns focused on donations or advocacy. Unless there is a real deadline for a matching gift or advocacy-related action, stating that the recipient must take action today is creating a false timeline and isn’t respectful of the individual’s time. On December 31st, a national nonprofit tweeted that people only had a few more hours to help their organization end cancer. The close of the calendar year is a critical time for income development but this tweet is an example of providing an artificial timeline focused on the organization’s goal, not the why the donor and their donation is important.

:-) or :-(

Some folks love emoticons and others hate them. Knowing that some audience members find emoticons to be unprofessional is a good reason for your organization to remove them from outgoing communication. Even though some nonprofits have developed a fun or whimsical voice for their organization, emoticon usage should be reserved for one-on-one communication. By only using them when you know the constituent’s communication style, you’ll avoid appearing unprofessional or having someone interrupt your smiley face as sarcastic.

SCC (any internal acronym)

Every nonprofit uses internal acronyms to describe their organization, programs, or software. It’s easy for these acronyms to slip into outgoing communication, but your audience may not understand these terms and cause confusion.


There were many great links on the web this week. For other periodic internet goodies, follow our Tumblr!

  1. Beth Kanter publishes consistently great content on her blog. This month she collected blog pieces from other sources that discuss measurement and learning. We were honored to be one of her shared links. There is a lot of great content in this post!
  2. As January comes to a close, the final few posts discussing resolutions and 2014 trends are published. Ann Green from #fundchat shares great ideas on how be more donor centered in 2014. Mashable outlines nine anticipated changes to social media marketing.
  3. Vu Le, Executive Director of a nonprofit in Seattle, provides ten nonprofit facts to the business community on his humorous website, Nonprofit With Balls.
  4. An argument over national rates of giving has erupted in the philanthropy community and Forbes covers the debate.
  5. NPQ details the different policy issues addressed in state of the state speeches throughout the United States.
  6. Many nonprofits are interested in millennial trends. Deloitte recently published results from a survey of over 8000 millennials and Josh Bersin describes a few key findings.
  7. Kivi Leroux Miller recently released their 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, which is a survey of 2,100+ nonprofit professionals and provides interesting perspective.
  8. Alzheimer Nederland, a Dutch Alzheimer’s group created a Facebook campaign that simulates what Alzheimers feels like. Mashable shares the details.

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