It’s About Respect

This is a followup to my blog A Stupid Name for a Service for Nonprofits, regarding the unbelievably-poorly-named online volunteering service, Pimp My Cause.

The issue isn’t just about a service using language that is anti-women and, indeed, anti-children. It isn’t just about this service using a phrase that means to market women and children for sex. The issue isn’t just about lack of respect for women and children.

The issue is about respect for the third sector.

The work of nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), charities and other mission-based organizations – the third sector – isn’t a pastime. It isn’t a hobby. Indeed, sometimes a nonprofit cause does become fashionable – suddenly, the media and celebrities may want to talk about getting rid of landmines, or HIV/AIDS, or immunizations, or breast cancer, or returning war veterans, and lots of flavor-of-the-day social entrepreneurs want to jump on the band wagon, with everyone wearing a particularly-colored ribbon, with lots of bumper stickers for the cause showing up on cars and SUVs, lots of shirts or shoes sporting a particular logo… but that spotlight doesn’t last. Long after the high-profile campaign by the department store or the software company or the talk show host or the singer or the actor has ended, these organizations will still be working, day-in, day-out, on a variety of worthwhile, even vital, causes.

Often, the work of nonprofits not only doesn’t catch on as fashionable or hip – it may even make people uncomfortable, because it addresses a not-so-hip issue, like child sexual exploitation and human trafficking – but nonprofits, NGOs and other mission-based organizations keep working year-after-year, without big-time donations or media campaigns.

The third sector isn’t perfect, but it serves society and the environment in ways that the for-profit or public sector cannot. Some causes are best addressed by the for-profit sector, some are best addressed by governments, and some are best addressed by mission-based organizations – and many are best addressed by all of these sectors working in partnership.

People that work for nonprofits aren’t simply nice people who can’t get jobs in the private sector. They are often highly skilled and experienced experts in their field – child psychology, emergency logistics, crisis communications, theater and dance as tools for community education and empowerment, arts management, social media to build awareness about HIV/AIDS, maternal health, organic agriculture, and on and on. They deserve to be listened to and consulted on actions that are going to involve them or effect them – and that includes being consulted by donors about new programs and projects donors want to fund.

The third sector has its own jargon, its own lingo. And different fields within the third sector each have a jargon or lingo all their own. And when you are talking to the third sector, you had better know that lingo and that culture: For instance, when you are standing in front of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, you don’t talk about drunk driving accidents; you talk about drunk driving wrecks, crashes… deaths. To do otherwise is highly offensive. If you use the term SME, you need to know what it means to the organizations and third sector experts you are talking to: Small and medium enterprises? Subject matter expert? Social Market economy? A Linux firewall?

In summary: if you are going to work with or for mission-based organizations, whether as a volunteer or as someone marketing services to them, you need to do your homework about the sector’s work, it’s language and it’s culture. The third sector deserves respect from the for-profit sector, including corporations, from the media, from the government – from everyone. To not spend time researching the sector and consulting with its members shows profound disrespect for the people working in such, and the people being served by such.  

No one who respects nonprofits, NGOs or other mission-based organizations would ever name their service Pimp My Cause.

Also see: How to Do Market Research–The Basics. I hear there’s some really good books and classes on this subject as well.

Finally, a shout out to the nonprofit FAIR FUND, a leading girls empowerment and anti-human trafficking organization that works to keep girls safe from exploitation. When I let FAIR FUND know about “Pimp My Cause”, they were ALL OVER IT. Follow @FAIRFund on Twitter and consider supporting them with a donation!


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