How jargon and abstraction might be keeping away donors

I recently came a cross this self-description of what a nonprofit does: “Community catalysts evolving global solutions locally.”

Six words, every one of them an abstraction, and most of them jargon.

It communicates almost nothing. I can think of a couple of reasons they chose that way to describe their work:

  1. They’re hiding something. They’re afraid if people knew what they really did, nobody would support them.
  2. They don’t know what they do. They’re faking it, and hoping nobody notices.

But there’s a third possible explanation that’s less nefarious and more likely: They think this language is just fine! An elegant and inspiring way to describe their work.

I believe that’s the reason because I’ve known enough nonprofit people who write that way and are proud of it.

Which in a way is worse than my two unlikely hypotheses: Because it shows us that their communication skills are broken. They are unaware that their jargon is impenetrable, that it comes across as evasive or just silly. They live in a bubble that only includes people who think and talk in the same stilted and abstract way they do.

This is just me, but I believe when people are that bad at communicating, there’s a strong chance they’re bad at other things too.

To be fair, not many donors are going to give their description as much thought I as do. For most, it will just wash part their consciousness and leave no impression at all. Which can’t be good for getting supporters excited about their work!

Take a look at the things your organization says. Are you communicating, or just letting words pile up meaninglessly?


Comments

One response to “How jargon and abstraction might be keeping away donors”

  1. Absolutely true, Milan Global has worked on Colorado Gives Days project and found it is really important to keep things real for human emotion.

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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.