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The Nonprofit Strategist

Five Things I Don't Like About Lists, And What I Intend To Do About It

Tired of articles and blog posts listing a bunch of things you should do to improve on how you run your nonprofit? Or your life for that matter?

I am. Here’s why.

  1. Too many writers are now using lists as the lazy person’s way of avoiding the essay form. It’s as though PowerPoint has invaded editorial space. Good essays can be challenging to write, but man, do they ever pack a punch. Compared to a list, I mean. And guess what...that guy who runs Amazon agrees with me!  

  2. They’re often irrelevant because they don’t have anything to do with you or your nonprofit, as Vu Le repeatedly and famously attests. 

  3. The folks writing up these lists don’t always have much to say. No offense, but they’re desperate to produce content, and sometimes they’re just scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  4. Somebody did a study and the results showed that we all like reading lists. Then someone at a social media consulting firm read the study, and (somewhere in the mists of time) very likely wrote an entire e-book and a bunch of blogs featuring the recommendation that we use lists to convey key ideas. Other social media consultants started repeating this. And now everyone from Buzzfeed to yours truly is shoving lists of stuff you MUST do down your throat, like it or not.  (See also: why cats are cute...or not.) 

  5. I don’t remember the fifth one. 

Seriously...of course there are positives. We’re all busy, and lists are easy to digest. I’ve said it myself: just give it to me straight, don’t write a term paper. But you know what? Lists really ARE sometimes an all-too-easy substitute for a good story or argument. 

I admit it: I've made this mistake, as readers of this blog might well attest.  In truth, I haven't been giving myself time to think deeply about the challenges we’re facing and the solutions that are out there. It's time to get off the merry go round, and so I am making my own personal commitment to keep digging deeper and to share more meaningful stories and insights about how we can be the change we want to see.  That means fewer lists, I promise.