Reframing newsletter

Communication Tip #2: Don’t Fall Into the Charity Trap

June 9, 2016

In a recent newsletter, we identified communication tips from FrameWorks Institute that can help the human service sector make the most of the new Building Well-Being Narrative. This week, we are taking a closer look at one of the words often used to describe the sector that we have learned undermines our communication efforts: CHARITY.

From Talking Human Services: A FrameWorks MessageMemo, FrameWorks Institute, November 2015:

The Charity trap. The well-known charity story rests on the largesse of the donors and the worthiness of the recipients. It focuses on the moment of human need, not on the preventions and interventions that led to that moment. It shuts out human services’ advocacy work and research and focuses attention narrowly on the provision of direct services. While it might result in a fundraising coup, it leaves donors ignorant of the larger scope of the problem and of the necessary solutions.”

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By invoking this narrow view of our sector and reinforcing the perception that nonprofit professionals act only out of compassion, we make it more challenging to position the sector as worthy of investment and as being comprised of trained experts deserving of fair compensation. Not only do we want to be sure not to refer to our own organizations or work as “charity”, we will expedite uptake of the new frame if we are proactive in educating others on such problematic terms. So, for example, if a reporter or funder is using the word charity, take the time to explain to them why it is outdated and how it misleads to the public. As we seek to build public understanding of the breadth and depth of the work the human services sector does, and the critical role it plays in building a thriving society, we need to discard the old terms that no longer serve us.