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Monday
Feb182013

Connecting Dots the Size of Small Fists

By Gail S. bower

A chart accompanying a recent advertorial in the New York Times Magazine spells out the food group portions we should be eating on a daily basis. It’s a perfectly nice chart. It tells us such details as how many servings of fruits and vegetables to eat if your caloric intake is 2,000 a day (4-5 servings per day each); that your grain intake (6-8 portions per day) may include a slice of bread or a ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal; and that if you eat a mere 1,600 calories per day, don’t even think about sweets. (It goes on to list sample serving sizes if you could eat sweets and if you’re among the lucky people eating 2,000 calories a day who are allowed 5 or fewer sweet servings per week: 1 tbsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. jelly or jam, ½ cup sorbet or ices, 1 cup lemonade.)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know what to do with this information. I’m pretty smart and reasonably receptive to information about my health. But what good does raw data about portion control do me? 

Do I just line my counter with all these portions each morning and eat my way through them?  Who has time to eat 4 or 5 fruits and 4 or 5 vegetables every single day? Actually, who could keep a kitchen stocked with all this food, much less keep it all fresh? Does anyone actually measure food portions? Frankly, this chart pretty much strips the joy of eating for me. I feel like a human dietary failure just looking at it.

The authors have made a mistake that many organizations make, particularly in newsletters and regular communications pieces. They have failed to connect the dots. The nice chart and the article it accompanies intend to provide helpful information to improve readers’ health, but they have failed to help readers integrate and use this information.

Nonprofit organizations have valuable knowledge to share, important stories, and great news to deliver. But often they deliver it like raw data. 

Before you send your newsletter off to the printer, or hit send to release your e-newsletter, reread it and ask yourself a few questions. What do you want your readers to do with this information? If moved by an important story within your organization, how should they be engaged? What actions can they take? How does that great news impact readers? 

As you develop your newsletter’s annual editorial calendar, ask yourself how each issue of your newsletter will move your organization’s mission forward even just a little bit.

OK. While you’re thinking about that, I’m going to go find 1 medium fruit, roughly baseball-size. It’s time for another fruit serving.

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