Love your neighbor.

Bernie on a Journey - Part 16 - November 1, 2019


This week's Journey covered some tips on effective communication that Megan Chandler (Development Coordinator) and I learned at a Foellinger Foundation seminar.

The speaker was Tony Proscio, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy( 

While a seminar on effective communication probably sounds terrifically boring to most people, it was actually a lively exchange of experiences about communication. Proscio would start with a principle, then show an example of bad communication, and encourage all attendees to spot the errors and explain the principle. 

After the video, I realized there was still so much material to share so I felt it would be beneficial to expand on what we learned via a blog post.

Here are the points and insights I found most helpful:

  1. "Find your center of gravity." In other words, decide what is the most crucial idea that you want people to get from your writing. 

  2. Most points have 3 parts:

    1. A Problem (What's this about?)

    2. A Solution (Who should do what?)

    3. Choices (Compared to what?)

      1. In any plan of action, know what you are choosing not to do, and why you have selected your course of action over other choices.

  3. All good writing is rewriting! 

    1. Hold documents for 48 hours then edit them. 

    2. Read aloud to check for fluency issues.

    3. Cut apart run-on sentences.

    4. Have someone else read it to see where ambiguity lies. 

  4. Make your point concisely and quickly because the average attention spans is dwindling.

    1. Don't waste time with known facts.

    2. Draw people in before you get into the details.

  5. Make numbers matter.

    1. Make sure your audience understands the scale of the numbers you use via examples ( e.g."The disease outbreak impacted a group as large as the  population of Canada, etc.") or properly explained percentages (e.g. "We improved our total sales by 50%," rather than saying "We improved by 50%").

  6. The best expressions/taglines trigger stories.

    1. Stories give facts and concepts a human face. 

  7. Remove jargon or overused "buzz words".

    1. Choose your words intentionally so that your audience will understand them.

    2. Minimize abbreviations, especially if they aren't readily understood.

  8. Choose active verbs 

    1. Passive sentences take much longer to say and remove clarity(e.g. "NeighborLink connects neighbors with needs," rather than saying "Needs and neighbors are connected by Neighborlink").