Is Language Important?


It's that time of year!

If you've not already planned your end-of-year fundraising campaign, it has likely been on your mind. The written content and stories you share will prove to be vital in finishing your organization's fiscal year strong.

Words have the power to affect our emotions, and when someone chooses to give to your organization their emotions often play a role in their desire to financially support your ministry. That is why your choice of words when working in development can make or break your next gift. 

Let's look at some words or phrases to avoid that are fairly commonplace in the fundraising world: Pitch, Hit Up, Donate or Donor, The Bottom Line, Pick the Low-Hanging Fruit, Solicit, Pledge, Close, Banquet, Programs and Services, I or Our; just to name a few. 

An important thing to remember when composing your center’s written and verbal appeals is that these people are your friends or ministry partners. Don’t refer to anyone as low-hanging fruit that you need to make a pitch to because your Director told you to hit up the loaded guy and then close him in order to make the bottom line. 

Instead, change your vocabulary to showcase what an honorable task has been set before you. You have the distinguished opportunity to approach a supporter and form a deeper connection in order to share how their vital gift can have a lasting impact.

See, now didn’t that sound much better?

The words “donate” and “support” are often used interchangeably within the organization and it’s easy to understand why. But when calling someone a donor, it often infers that the individual is a means to an end. The term lacks inclusivity and an invitation to take part in making a collective impact together.

The terms supporter or ministry partner communicate a long-term investment in your mission, vision and values. While a ministry partner may give a gift at any time or commit to a financial faith investment over time, their involvement runs much deeper than money. They may feel called to volunteer, pray or publically advocate on behalf of your center’s vision and values. 

Be specific in the way you describe your organization’s programs and services. Strive to be intentional in describing what your organization is doing and how his or her gift can make an impact. For example, asking a ministry partner to “please donate to our pregnancy test service and parenting education programs,” doesn’t communicate a lot. Instead, create something artful like, “your generous gift can help confirm a woman’s pregnancy and provide the information she’s seeking to become a good parent.” 

Also, note the difference between the supporter-centered approach from the second example versus the organization-centered approach from the first example: the word “you.” 

The power of the word you when communicating with a supporter comes from this essential fact: it is ALL about the ministry partner. They don’t give a gift because of who you are, they give a gift because of who they are. All of the elements of good friend-raising communication are predominantly centered on the term you or the supporter’s actual name – intentionally staying away from the terms “I” or “Our.” 

We understand that we have metrics, and within the office, we need a vocabulary to talk about our relationships and systemize our progress and results. But seriously consider the words we use and how they make us feel about ourselves and the work we are doing. The words we use and what we tell ourselves are key to our success in development and life because they create our mindset. 

Can you think of other terms that may not be interpreted in a way that is honorable and beneficial? Talk with your team about these words. If you view them from a different vantage point, through the eyes of your supporters, what might they perceive?

Would you like to learn more about fundraising, or as we say at VirTru, “friend-raising”? Contact our team to learn how VirTru can help you maximize your success today!