One Word. Don’t Think. Just Write.

This One Post Challenge entry comes from Samantha Beinhacker. Among her many passions, Samantha is working on a project called the Story Index as an attempt to create a Rosetta Stone between all the nascent exchanges, rating agencies and analyst groups that are arising, trying to determine common denominators of the value of “businesses doing good” that are best encapsulated in narratives. See the project’s blog for more info.

By Samantha Beinhacker

One Word. Don’t Think. Just Write.

The philanthropic landscape is littered with remnants of failed attempts to quantify the impact of nonprofits’ activities. High-impact models, quantitative measures, improved business management– these are just some of the tools bandied about. Much has been written about the failure of these systems to adequately capture and track the cumulative value of resources for good; and worse, the harm they can wreak on social change efforts.

How about envisioning a new way of doing this: using words rather than numerics to understand core competencies and stakeholders’ perspectives about value and impact?

If you could express in one word the impact of your most treasured nonprofit or mission-based social enterprise, what would that one word be? Write that one word down in the comments section below. And then start composing your impressions of that word– the meanings they connote for you. You have sixty seconds to write about it. Don’t think. Just write.


  1. Matt says:

    It’s disheartening to me that this post hasn’t gotten any comments yet. It’s good advice, clearly worded, ending with a call to action. I’m going to give it a try.


    When people say things like, “Well, at least you have your health,” or “Without your health, you have nothing,” they know what they’re talking about. The people my organization helps can’t work without having a healthy body. Whether they’re pedaling bicycle rickshaws, assembling garments, or farming, these low-income workers need to be mobile. They depend on their limbs for their livelihood. So when my organization treats their fractures quickly and effectively, we’re not just helping them feel better. We’re helping them sustain their lives.

  2. Freedom.

    There are untold binds that prevent people from actualizing the life they want to live. Cultural, legal, economic, societal, racial… Some are self imposed, other’s imposed with intent by others, other are inadvertent, others serve one purpose but hurt another, others are intended to serve a purpose but serve none.

    When people are free to take the actions they believe will bring them happiness, many things fall into place.

    I took your 60 second limit seriously. Hope that makes sense.

  3. Hope.

    The recognition/realization that a better life awaits–one filled with opportunity, promise, and chance to live life as a productive citizen. Hope can be a motivator that gets you to see the future as one filled with possibilities and rewards.

  4. Inspiration.

    This may seem a little abstract, especially compared to things like “health” and “freedom,” but I believe that inspiration is absolutely related to hope. When I think of my most treasured nonprofit, and it has been so since I was a child, I think of the awe and wonder that it first made me feel, I think of how it has shaped my career and my life and my values. I think of how it fills me with inspiration–and a smile–whenever I think of it. I know it does the same for others, too.

  5. Dien S Yuen says:


    Faith that the work of the organization is fulfilling the immediate needs of its constituents. In turn, constituents will pass this faith on to others.

    Faith that we expect and deliver only programs based on excellence.

  6. Tom Canavan says:

    The Benefactor
    (9 seconds)

    Now I have 51 seconds left squander. Think I’ll nap.

  7. Kevin Jones says:

    people see they are connected to the poor, not separate from them. People in gated communities are waking up to global warming. I think that’s a good thing. Next, I think they should open the gates.

  8. Nick Temple says:


    With confidence and legitimacy, individuals are empowered (in the true meaning of the word) to drive and create solutions, develop and use their own talents, and inspire and inform others. The ripple effects of giving confidence to people are extraordinary.

    [that’s about SSE, I guess]

  9. Cat Laine says:


    Impressions: life, sustenance, ability to care for friends and family, human right, dignity, freedom from pain (certain types of), strength, Lazarus

  10. Holistic

    This stands true for my original “baby” of a nonprofit, which I helped launch: as well as for the best NGO I have ever interacted with: Both are impossible to give an elevator pitch for, because they don’t go for pithy, they aim to create holistic, interconnected systems that address multiple issues and create mutually dependent benefits for traditional “givers” and “receivers”.

    Whew. 60 seconds. Good one, Sam.

  11. Thank you to those who dared to take this challenge. I asked for one word and your thoughts in 60 seconds, and what emerged is a rainbow of aspirations and challenges, all related to the impact of doing “philanthropy” tactically well.

    Though few readers responded (not enough readers, I say!), it is telling from the words used that there are direct ways to measure impact that go beyond the numbers and financial metrics.

    Health. Freedom. Hope. Inspiration. Faith. Connections. Confidence. Holistic. These are all words that describe the beauty of human behavior, as well as acts of love, kindness, and generosity.

    What is the value of all this? How can we create standards that are visible, clear, and transparent that connect with the aspirations and challenges you identified as being worthy of treasure?

    What words would you use to create those standards? Join the dialogue on

    Keep those words and stories flowing… thanks for being part of the conversation.

  12. leo harris says:


    I believe that human desire is for one purpose, and one purpose only, ask yourselves, why seek hope, confidence, health, faith, inspiration, etc. I believe that answer is happiness, what ever you need to do, work, play, study, focus on the reason why? and be happy. I wonder how peoples personal and business lives would benefit from focussing on aligning their goals and achievements with happiness…