Complicated Client Stories

The public can have trouble understanding why a social issue is so difficult to solve, and it’s up to you to explain all the layers that cause the problem. How do you explain why it’s so difficult to end addiction, sex trafficking, and other mammoth issues? In Season 4, Episode 3, Pamela Sessions and Savak Millis talk about their clients in recovery at Renewal House. Also, Emily Willmore talks about her clients who escaped trafficking with End Slavery Tennessee.


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☑️ Think about the language you use.

When you work with misunderstood client populations, such as women in recovery, be intentional about using language which will not perpetuate harmful stereotypes. For example, Renewal House refers to their clients as “women in recovery” instead of using the common language of “addicts” or “junkies” to shift the focus from the disease to the women’s hard work and positive behaviors.

☑️ Allow space for the community to ask difficult questions.

I loved hearing Pamela, Savak, and Emily describe their responses to questions like “Why don’t those women just leave their traffickers?” Renewal House and End Slavery Tennessee do not pass judgment on community members when they ask questions.

☑️ Use your facility (if you have one) as a communication tool.

When working with nonprofits, I often hear concerns about inviting community members into their office space for tours, especially when organizations are working with clients who need anonymity. If you haven’t heard this week’s podcast episode yet, you have to hear Pamela and Savak’s opinion about this! Also, End Slavery Tennessee will schedule tours through only portions of their building to protect the safety of their clients.

☑️ Go out and speak about your mission.

Renewal House and End Slavery Tennessee both do an amazing job at getting out in the community to spread awareness about their mission. Keep in mind that if you really want to fix the root cause of your mission, spreading awareness needs to be a part of your operations plan. If this seems impossible for you because you work in a small organization, I hope you’ll listen to Emily’s interview where she describes EST’s volunteer speakers’ bureau program.

☑️ Empower your supporters to act as ambassadors.

Your organization can’t solve a huge societal issue on its own. Think about how you can prepare your board members, volunteers, donors, and even regular community members to speak intelligently about your cause area when questions come up in their personal circles of influence.


Nonprofit Jenni is currently accepting new clients who need consulting or coaching in the areas of Engagement, Communications, and Marketing strategy.

I also cover a wide range of topics related to nonprofit management on my podcast, including board development, program creation, and grant writing.