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May Newsletter 2023

Photo by Brett Jordan


Possibilities vs. Abilities

May has arrived, which reminds me of the perpetual grammar lesson of May vs. Can. You remember: Surely, once upon a time, you asked teachers, “Can I go to the bathroom?” to which they replied, ignoring your crossed legs and pleading eyes, “I don’t know. Can you?”

Visionaries, big thinkers, idealists, and, of course, folk signers as all about possibilities.

Without unleashing my inner grammar geek, let me just summarize it this way: Can is about ability. May is about possibility. It’s a good lesson beyond grammar. When thinking about our missions, how often do we confuse what we can do with what we may do? How often do we confuse a-bility with possi-bility? Knowing the difference between them will not only pay off with better outcomes, but it will help your message stay clear, confident, and compelling!

Active Listening: Five Benefits

We’re in the business of building messages—messages that tell compelling, authentic stories of the great work our clients do. However, telling stories is just the end product. To get there, any good communicator uses active listening. Telling or talking without listening first is not communicating. It is simply bull-horning.

For example, quantitative research can help you understand the age and interests of your audience, which can help you craft messages they’re more likely to embrace. Qualitative research helps you understand nuanced data, like how people perceive your organization.
Through one-on-one interviews, one of our clients learned people thought the organization lacked focus and direction. That, in turn, influenced messaging that reinforced their direction and stayed focused on what they do best.

Listening, whether in the form of quantitative research, like surveys, or qualitative research, like interviews, helps organizations communicate more effectively with their audiences.

Here are five benefits of active listening to your audience:


International Red Cross

In this recurring feature of Focal Point, we profile people and organizations on a mission! If you have someone to suggest, let us know!

Thursday, May 4, is World Red Cross Day, created to honor the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement founder Henry Dunant who was born on May 8, 1828. The day celebrates the organization’s mission to alleviate human suffering, protect life and health, and uphold human dignity, especially during armed conflicts and other emergencies.

The American Red Cross is the designated US affiliate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. As a non-profit humanitarian organization, it provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education in the United States. Red Cross volunteers and staff work to deliver vital services—from providing relief and support to those in crisis, to helping you be prepared to respond in emergencies.

Clara Barton and a circle of her acquaintances founded the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881. Barton first heard of the Swiss-inspired global Red Cross network while visiting Europe following the Civil War. Returning home, she campaigned for an American Red Cross and for ratification of the Geneva Convention protecting the war-injured, which the United States ratified in 1882.

For more information, visit

Well Said

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”

—Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of the most popular playwrights in London in the early 1890s. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his criminal conviction for gross indecency for consensual homosexual acts in “one of the first celebrity trials,” imprisonment, and early death from meningitis at age 46.

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