The language and rhetoric of the sector is shifting.

Recently, I was on a panel with Paul Light, Lester Salamon, and Peter Frumkin hosted by Bill Schambra at the Bradley Center in Washington D.C. The discussion moved to how metrics and effectiveness will be shaped by the new economic conditions. Peter Frumkin shared his theory that nonprofits that have been using the “rhetoric of reason and rationale” may begin using the “rhetoric of emotion” (using appeals to “morality” or “obligation” to maintain and attract donors). I agree with his prediction. During these difficult economic times, when all of us know someone who has or is at risk of losing their job, it’s much easier for us to relate to the appeals to our conscience and our heart. That’s not to say that there is no room for “expert” evaluations and quantitative metrics. It’s about degree and balance of the heart and the head.

image Perla Ni, founding publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, is the founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits. She is also a cofounder of