The high cost of jargon in fundraising

Jargon can kick your butt.

Here’s evidence from Michael Rosen Says: One Word is Costing Your Fundraising Effort a Fortune.

What’s the word?

“Bequest.”

That’s right. In a survey, 23% of respondents were “interested now” in “making a gift to charity in my will.” Only 12% were “interested now” in “making a bequest gift to charity.”

Why? Because “bequest” is what we call it. Not what they call it. It’s our internal jargon, so often used that many of us have no inkling that it’s not the word normal people use.

Jargon is harmless, even good, when you and your donors use it. It can signal that you’re both in the same group.

But don’t assume that because a word is useful to you that it’s meaningful to them. A good fundraising writer does a jargon reality check, thinking carefully about words — and choosing the most common word almost every time.

If you like to motivate people to take action, like donate or leave you in their will, use their language, not yours.


Comments

2 responses to “The high cost of jargon in fundraising”

  1. Michelle T. Avatar
    Michelle T.

    Love this. My first year in fundraising as a coordinator, my director sent out a direct mail piece asking people to make a “renewal gift”. My phone number was on the form – for a week I fielded calls from panicked donors asking why they had to “renew” their donation. I begged my director to never, ever use the phrase “renewal gift” with our donors.

  2. Michelle T. Avatar
    Michelle T.

    Love this. My first year in fundraising as a coordinator, my director sent out a direct mail piece asking people to make a “renewal gift”. My phone number was on the form – for a week I fielded calls from panicked donors asking why they had to “renew” their donation. I begged my director to never, ever use the phrase “renewal gift” with our donors.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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