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Downes Murray International News

Should our jargon get junk status?

Let’s deliver the deathly blow of junk status to the use of jargon in supporter communications, writes Marisol Gutierrez. But what about its use in the sector?
If a charity, even a favourite one, wrote to ask me for ‘support’ (ie: money) as part of their ‘donor renewal’ activities – and was crazy enough to use that term in the letter – it would make me feel one of two things:
  1. Numb.
  2. Incredulous (but not in a good way).

Why? Because I don’t think of myself as a ‘donor’; I’m a person, your supporter, your cheerleader and your fan. And unless you’re writing from a luscious spa, the reference to ‘renewal’ isn’t riveting to me, either.

Seriously though, if there’s one hollow term in the sector, it’s ‘donor’. It is such a habitual description of every human and institutional source of funding that it has become faceless and lifeless. Yet, we want to be ‘donor-centric’ and we worry about ‘donor fatigue’.

Perhaps we should start to think about other words to refer to and better describe the generous people who give their hard-earned money to charities, such as friends, super-supporters, heroes and life-savers. That’s what they are to me. Really. These are the people who, after all, back our notion of changing the world – and not with emojis, but with money.

Corporate partners, not ‘funders’
Similarly, think about corporates not as ‘funders’ but as partners. Investing thousands or millions of Rands in an NPO’s work should not be the basis of a loveless marriage marked only by communication when essential, in the form of reports by due date. If this is the case with your organisation (or business), opportunities for engagement are being wasted.

And no, it’s not a word game. It’s about a shift in mindset, relating better and it’s about relationships – which are at the heart of fundraising, which is why it’s also known as friend-raising!

Marisol Gutierrez is Communication and Partnerships Manager at Downes Murray International. She’s also a seasoned copywriter who wouldn’t dream of starting a letter with, ‘Dear Donor’.

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