Do your “core values” make things better, or worse?

Does your organization need a list of “core values”?

Maybe, sas the Monday Morning Memo at Does Your Company Have Core Values?

But sometimes your published core values can do as much harm as good. The Memo notes that there are only three reasons to have a list of core values:

  1. Inspire and reinforce “on-brand” behavior from employees.
  2. Assist in the orientation and onboarding of new hires.
  3. Inform investors, customers, [donors,] and other interested parties of what they can expect from you.

Notice that two of the three are for insiders, only one for outsiders.

But here’s the key point: If your core values list is just a bunch of abstract aspirational qualities, you’re heading for confusion:

When your core values include aspirational words that describe attributes rather than actions, your core values list will be interpreted differently by different readers…

Some common aspirational words for nonprofits include: transparency, integrity, respect, compassion — you know, good things, but not clear description of real-world actions.

That leaves them wide open to interpretation — and confusion.

Worse yet, they generally don’t engage, connect, or inspire.

It becomes a navel-gazing exercise.

Values matter a lot. Knowing and understanding them is critical for keeping insiders aligned. And donors want to be part of organizations that share their values.

But a list of abstractions won’t get you there.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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