The Importance of Language

The 4th Annual Thriving Non Profits program launched at the end of January. This program, delivered in partnership with Victoria Foundation, is for non-profit organizations that want to diversify their revenue streams and incorporate more enterprising approaches.

In the first session, we spend most of the time digging into the culture of the non profit sector, unpacking beliefs about money, and how those beliefs can be limiting and may contribute to the feeling of ‘not enough resources available’.  

What I found interesting about the conversation, and several that I have had recently, is that the language of ‘non-profit’ or ‘charity’ does not accurately define this amazing sector. This is becoming more clear as I watch the shifts non profits are making towards revenue generation, asset ownership, and laser-focus on generating impact. The context is also changing as social procurement and impact investing are moving towards the mainstream.

I was having a conversation with my sister-in-law a couple of months ago. Every time we connect, she and I try to figure out what each other does for a living (she is a cellular biologist). This time, I tried a different tact- instead of focusing on revenue diversification within the non profit sector, this time I said: ‘I work to increase the flow of resources to organizations who are creating impact. The work we do supports the Impact Sector.’ A light bulb went off- she was stuck on the word non-profit, and mentioned that she couldn’t figure out why one would want to invest in or grow ‘non-profits’. But when framed as ‘impact organizations’., it made sense. By changing language, perhaps we can move past the ‘why would we want to…’ to ‘how can we…’. This is the critical importance of language- to note where it is holding us back and where it can leap us forward.

I am changing my language- I work in the Impact Sector, with Impact Organizations and we are open for Impact Investment.