A simple test for honest and respectful nonprofit marketing and communication:
Imagine you’ve just arrived in the city or village where your program recipients / beneficiaries live. They’ve invited you into their house for tea. You happen to have copies of your organization’s website, blog posts, or email fundraising appeals with you, translated into the local language. Is it uncomfortable to share those materials with your hosts? Are there parts you skip over when reading aloud, or hesitate to hand over? Would you be insulting their hospitality by sharing?
I think very few communiqués and/or organizations would pass the test completely, because we either aren’t honest, or more often, aren’t respectful. And we never expect the things we write about people to get back to them. If your website or blog or email doesn’t pass the test, do you have a very good reason? I’m not convinced that everything should pass the test in every instance, but I think it’s good aspiration — and gut check — for messaging.
The Tea Test was inspired by a passage in Jon Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit, which describes outrage amongst Pakistani community leaders when they learned what Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea said about them. More here.