Distancing language, what it is, and why you must crush it

***This is a great piece on how to fully immerse yourself into a board and make sure those around you stay enthusiastic about the mission of the non-profit’s that you are a part of.

Last week was rough, as we received not one, not two, but…ok, two grant rejection notices (so sweet and thoughtful of people to wait until after the holiday break to send rejection letters). Whenever I get stressed, my face breaks out, which causes me stress, thus perpetuating a vicious pattern that I call the Pizza Face Cycle. During these times, to avoid scaring small children or potential donors, I usually hole myself in my cubicle, away from the world, listening to 90′s Hip-Hop, coming out every once a while to feed on ramen while avoiding the gaze of cruel or indifferent passersby.

And that’s what happened last week after getting the grant notices. Unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid several meetings and thus had to bring my face, like a minor Jackson Pollock painting, out in public. It was during one of these meetings that I noticed the nuances of the words we use during meetings. Specifically, how people unconsciously use inclusive or distancing language and how it affects the rest of the group.

Simply put, inclusive language indicates that you consider yourself a part of a team (e.g, “We need to revise our mission statement to include unicorns”) while distancing language indicates that you see yourself not a part of the organization or effort (“You need to revise your mission statement to include unicorns.”) This may seem trivial, you guys, but it is not:

  • New board members will use distancing language when they first join the board. As they identify more and more with the organization, they should start using inclusive language pretty much all the time.
  • If you do a good job at your programs, the clients should see it as THEIR programs, and they will use inclusive language when talking about these programs.
  • Consultants for short-term projects will use distancing language. The longer they are with a project, the more likely they will lapse into inclusive language.
  • Donors and volunteers who are especially invested in the organization will sometimes unconsciously lapse into inclusive language. This is a great sign. I was inviting one of our donors to our holiday party. “We should have beer at the party,” she said. “We totally should!” I said.

Distancing language can be a symptom of a greater problem. For instance, if after a year serving on the board, one of your board member says something like, “So when is your annual dinner this year?” something is not right.

It is also extremely contagious, and if left untreated will infect an entire group. I was on a committee made up of people from several organizations. We were brainstorming ideas about outreach. “I have an idea,” said one person, “you should make a list of all the organizations in the area and then call them individually.” “Great idea,” said another person, “you should also visit the community centers.” “Yeah, face-to-face is really critical for relationship building,” another person chimed in, “you’ll get better results that way.” It was a surreal meeting.

And that’s why you should be on the lookout for distancing language, and when appropriate you must crush it like an overcooked lentil! Here are some ways to do that:

  • Counter with inclusive language. If you use “we” often enough, especially after every instance of distancing language, it will likely stick in people’s minds.
  • Counter with your own distancing language. If you are the lead of a committee, people may direct all their ideas and feedback at you, unconsciously implying that you are going to do all the work. Use distancing language back at them might shock them out of it. E.g., “I completely agree. You should visit the community centers!”
  • Gently call it out. Say something like, “Hi everyone, I notice that we’ve been using ‘you’ a lot. This is a collaborative effort, and all of us are on the team, so let’s try to use ‘we’ more often?” It is helpful to pair this speech with inclusive body language, opening your arms wide and sweeping them toward yourself to emphasize “we.”
  • Follow up individually with people whom you notice use distancing language often and ask for their thoughts on the project. Chances are, they are not yet fully committed, and their language reflects that. The more you communicate with them, the more invested they’ll feel.
  • Be more direct. After several gentle reminders, I just correct people on the spot: “You should have a graphic design student work on the logo—” “We, John, WE should have a graphic design student work on the logo. Don’t make me have to remind you again…”

Once you start paying attention to this, it can be very helpful. Just a quick word of caution, though. At one of the meetings this week, the finance committee, we were discussing VFA’s financial management system. “You should revise your charts of accounts,” said one of the members of the committee, “and you should start developing a dashboard of financial health for the organization.” I knew from experience that I had to put a stop to the distancing language before it went too far. “Whoa, whoa, what’s with the distancing language, lady?!” I said, “You’re a part of this organization, aren’t you? What’s with all the ‘you should do this’ and ‘you should do that’ here, huh?!”

Apparently, that is not how you’re supposed to talk to a board member, especially a very dedicated one who had given months of notice in advance that she may be taking hiatus from the board to focus on taking care of other important things, so I would like to apologize.

– Written by Vu Le is the Executive Director of a nonprofit in Seattle, the Vietnamese Friendship Association and the Author of the blog, Non-Profit with Balls.

Interview with Suzanne Brown, New Hampshire Institute of Agriculture and Forestry (Vika)

Suzanne Brown, Founding Farmer & Executive Director of the New Hampshire Institute of Agriculture and Forestry (“NHIAF”).

 1. What is NHIAF? What exactly do you do/provide for the local community?

  • NHIAF’s mission is to develop new farms, farmers, and markets for locally and sustainably/organically produced food and wood products. We provide consulting services for people who want to venture into the ag/forestry occupations; we work with existing farmers and forestry businesses to help them become more productive/profitable/organic/sustainable; we also help planners/towns/schools and other institutions move toward more food independence. An offshoot of NHIAF is our NH farm Fresh distribution service, which will probably be spun off as a for-profit enterprise this year. I also have a passion for technology and innovation and work toward finding sustainable efficiencies for agricultural production. 

 2. What is your background? How did you become involved with NHIAF? How long have you worked there?

  • I grew up in southern NH on a small “hobby” farm and attended the US Naval Academy and while I was a Marine officer I completed an MBA at Pepperdine University. I left the service and went into software and real estate development and marketing. I wanted a career change and was very interested in organic farming. So our family moved back home to NH from CA 7 years ago and we started farming and established NHIAF to help our local ag/forestry industry, which was and in many ways still is antiquated and in decline.

 3. What percentage of NH is forested; farm land? What is the most farmed product/ good in NH?

  • About 86% of our state is forested, but back in the 1800’s much of that land was opened farm fields, hence all the stone walls. Our biggest farmed product(s) is actually not edible—horticultural greenhouse production of ornamentals and Christmas trees. After that, I believe milk, apples, and maple syrup.

 4. Please describe your job generally, as well as you daily tasks?

  • My job ranges from developing strategic plans at the top level to being out on pasture with the cattle, pigs, and sheep—feeding watering, observing. I also fix ALOT of broken things, especially in cold weather. Equipment, tools, water and electrical systems. Every single day the animals need food/water/shelter, so I need to make sure they have it no matter what it takes. My day normally starts and ends with deskwork (too much!) and then I try to be outside as much as possible. I also visit other farms quite a bit as part of my consulting work. I also do all the software development for our e-commerce website www.nhfarmfresh.com that is in the process of being overhauled.

  5. What do you think of the plans for the overhaul of nutrition labels on US food packages in more than two decades, as unveiled recently by Mrs. Obama?

  • Long overdue … good news for my business 🙂 I hope this is a precursor to GMO labeling.

6. What are the traits of an effective organizational leader?

  • Well, I was a Marine officer, so my leadership values were instilled strongly at a young age. Integrity, a willingness to do whatever it takes to complete the mission, taking care of your people before yourself, etc. It works for managing myself, and my family, and they are also values that I find are sometimes missing from the agricultural community. My leadership style that worked well in software/tech/development, is culturally different from what I have found in agriculture. Ag is a slow-moving, often frustratingly recalcitrant-to-change industry. Unfortunately, many of the “old school” conventional farmers don’t like me.


Town Government Interview-A.Brown

I interviewed Kelly Skehan from the Town of Ossipee. Kelly is the Town Tax Collector and Town Clerk. Kelly has been in this position for 7 years. Kelly explained to me that it is an elected position. Kelly currently supervises two people. The two staff are under the union.

What is one of your challenges?

Answer: Keeping up with all the laws and the changes for both positions.Kelly explained that every year there are positive changes that keep the Town’s up to date and then there are changes that make the Town feel as tough they are going backwards. The job is forever changing.

What do you like best about your job?

Answer: The people. Kelly enjoys seeing and talking with the people who come in. Kelly also likes that the day-to-day functions are never the same. The day always rushes by as there is so much to do. In listening to Kelly it was very clear to me that she was very customer focused and makes sure that everything she does has a positive impact on the customer. Kelly listen’s to what people have to say. I think this is really important.

How has this position changed?

Answer: The billing has changed, a lot of things are now done online, a lot of communication is through e-mail, and there has been two software changes since she has been there.

Are you involved on any boards?

Yes. Kelly is not required to be however she is the Carroll County Tax Collector Coordinator, second VP of Tax Collector Association, on the Education board for Tax Collector’s and serves on the board for the Historical Society.

The town is audited yearly. The town has to follow strict privacy guidelines. Kelly needs to be certified yearly and has training to complete this on a statewide level. During this training everyone networks and talks about the challenges they face.

Kelly has a huge part in the town Elections. Kelly said one of her biggest concerns is lack of interest from younger individuals. Kelly said now the baby boomers think nothing of voicing their opinions however they do not want to attend meeting or vote. This has a huge impact on the next generation as we have not set the tone for attending meetings and the importance of voting. At the last election there were 108 at the town meeting. Of that 42 were non vested. The majority was all older people.

It was awesome to talk to Kelly because she really likes her job. Kelly said one thing that she works very hard at is educating the young when they are complaining about the importance of voting and attending town meetings. I learned a lot from talking to Kelly and feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to do so.

Amy Brown


NH opening two drug courts (WMUR)

CONCORD, N.H. —A New Hampshire judge says a pair of drug courts could open as soon as this fall in Hillsborough County if a federal grant comes through.
Drug courts, which already operate in Rockingham, Grafton and Strafford counties, allow non-violent offenders with histories of drug addiction to participate in court-supervised treatment programs instead of going to jail.
The Legislature passed a law in 2012 to make starting such courts easier, but efforts to open locations in Manchester and Nashua were stalled last year due to the automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
Judge Kenneth Brown told the Telegraph that judicial, drug treatment and law enforcement officials have completed drug court training and are waiting to see if the Justice Department will approve a $700,000 grant. If the money is approved, the courts could begin accepting cases in September or October, he said.
“We’ve got everything in place,” he said. “All the team players are there, so it’s just a matter of getting the funding.”
The grants, which would cover three years, would allow for about 40 defendants at any given time in each court. The program takes an average of 18 months to complete, he said.
Jackie Smith of the Nashua public defender’s office, said the courts are long overdue.
“I look at a place like Strafford County and I get really excited about how we can help rehabilitate people addicted to drugs in our community,” she said. “I think it’s a long time coming in Hillsborough County.”

Read more: http://www.wmur.com/news/nh-opening-two-drug-courts/25463550#ixzz2yrltahok

“Meet the Commissioners” class interview

This morning I met with Erik Corbett. He is Committee chair for the Barlett Democratic Committee and the executive assistant for the Carroll Co. Democratic Committee (CCDC).

Erik is from Mass. He has been here for 10 years. He can here originally to work at a non-profit though Attitash to run a ski program for people with disabilities.

He was a participant in the Leadership Class in 2010. He and his wife are becoming foster parents (which I think is awesome!!)

CCDC is all volunteer organization. There are 4 board members. They meet every other month. They do some fundraising, some campaigning, and some special events in the County. They also provide support to the committees of the towns. They receive support from the State Democratic party. They try to chose/find candidates for the state level representation.

Presently all the County Commissioners are republican. The State Senator for District 3 (mostly Carroll CO.) is republican. There are several 6-7 democratic representatives at the State House.

He became involved in local government because he, through personal experiences of trying to get a permit for a business, realized how important it is for local representatives to be responsive to the population and interested in helping. He indicated the when CCDC is looking for candidates for local leadership, these are the characteristics they try to identify in individuals.


Rolling Stone image of heroin user on maple syrup bottle sparks outrage


MONTPELIER, Vt. —A national magazine draws the ire of Vermonters with a graphic image depicting the state’s battle with heroin.

The move shocked and upset many Vermonters, including maple sugar makers.

Most said it’s not fair to link maple syrup to Vermont’s heroin crisis.

“Oh God, isn’t that awful,” Burr Morse said. “What are they thinking? They’re not thinking. The new face of heroin.”

Morse is a seventh-generation sugarer, making and selling Vermont’s liquid gold to tourists and locals alike. He says the depiction of a Vermonter, shooting up heroin on a maple syrup bottle is just wrong.

“It’s tragic. It’s just tragic that this outfit would use such a blatant lack of common sense for gosh sake,” Morse said.

The word is spreading on social media, too. Vermonters upset about the way heroin is being portrayed in the state have taken to the Rolling Stone Facebook page. If you scroll down, nearly every comment is from an angry Vermonter.

“At first blush, I saw it and I thought wow, there’s our Vermont maple syrup product with a very different picture than we’re used to seeing on it,” Vermont Deputy Tourism Commissioner Steve Cook said.

Tourism is a nearly $2-billion-a-year industry in Vermont, but Cook said it’s too soon to tell if the picture will have any impact on people’s travel decisions.

“After having a chance to read the article, it’s a much better portrayal of the challenges facing Vermonters are facing and the proactive approach that Vermont is taking to face this problem head on,” Cook said.

Still many say, it’s a sour image that’s tainting Vermont’s sweetest industry.

“I think understanding that there’s a problem with drugs in Vermont is a good thing. I don’t think that is,” Julie Roy said as she was enjoying sugar on snow at Morse Farm and Maple Sugarworks.

“It’s just infuriating for anyone to suggest that there might be a connection,” Morse said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin , who is quoted in the Rolling Stone article, released this statement:

“We are part of a really important national conversation and no single photograph is going to change that.  While it is very disappointing and hurtful that Rolling Stone would alter an iconic image so important to Vermont just to be provocative, I don’t think we should make too much of it and it certainly will not deter us from this important work.”

A request for comment from Rolling Stone magazine was not immediately returned.

Read more: http://www.wptz.com/news/vermont-new-york/burlington/image-of-heroin-user-on-maple-syrup-bottle-sparks-outrage/25253830#ixzz2xeaVEmrj

Thoughts? Vika

Leadership Alumni E-Blast – Please Review

Please review this rough draft of the e-blast being sent to all alumni regarding the project. The spacing and some design issues are off with the transfer of coding, but this is the basic gist. We can discuss this during the first part of our meeting tomorrow, before the email is sent out.

Thank you, Jaimie

Leadership MWV 2014

Karen Albert

White Mt. Waldorf School

Amy Brown

Northway Bank


Aly Coakley

King Pine Ski Area


Amanda Greenwood

Attitash Mt. Service Co.


Miriah Jones

MWV Children’s Museum


Viktoriya Kovalenko

Hastings Malia, P.A.


Jennifer Lain



Katelyn Lundblad

Bank of NH


Chris McKay

Leone McDonnell & Roberts, P.A.


Antoine Procyk

Cranmore Mountain Lodge


Kate Putnam

Attitash Grand Summit


William Sanborn

Northway Bank

Leadership MWV is Generously Sponsored by:

 Dear Leadership Alumni,


For the first time ever, Leadership MWV Class of 2014 has been given an extraordinary opportunity. An anonymous donor gave the class $1,000.00, giving them the opportunity to have a hands-on opportunity to work in committees and interface with the non-profit community. This year’s Leadership class is now working towards raising a match to that original donation.

Won’t you consider donating?  

With over 65 graduates from the Leadership program,  achieving the class’ goal of raising an additional $1,000 or more  should be attainable.

No amount is too small and all donations are tax deductible and can be made out to the
Mount Washington Valley Preservation Association, a non-profit organization, which is providing accounting support for this fundraiser.
We will provide you a receipt (EIN 20-1717225).


Thank you in advance!



All funds raised will go towards one or more non-profits who meet the requirements of the RFP and will use the funds most effectively to further their mission and provide the greatest benefit to the MWV community through their actions.


The chosen non-profit(s) will be awarded the funds at the Annual Business to Business Expo on May 19, 2014 at the Omni Mount Washington Resort.


 Please save the date for
Leadership MWV’s Graduation
June 11th, 4-6pm
Place to be Determined
2014 Leadership MWV


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