Language is Key to Inclusion

Increasingly, I’ve observed the language used by development professionals has become more and more industry-specific. From CRM (client relationship management) to DAF (donor advised fund), my colleagues are becoming comfortable using jargon with donors and donor prospects. That’s good because it demonstrates a level of comfort, but more often than not jargon can seem disenfranchising to those individuals who are the most important part of what we do.

Jargon can be used to build trust, which we know is so important to nurturing donor relationships, but only if you first take time to understand an individual’s priorities and their relationship to the organization in question. Remember trust first comes from clarity, and simple language brings clarity. Keep It Simple and Specific (KISS).

Here are five traps to avoid, and how you can do so, when trying to build trust and obtain a sense of clarity:

  1. Jargon Overuse: Terms like DAF and CRM may be unrecognizable to potential donors and could serve only to disenfranchise them. Through our internal assessment process, THG gains an appreciation for an organization’s Strategic Vision (the first pillar of Hyper-Philanthropy) and comes to understand the general language used by the organization to fulfill that vision.
  2. Jargon Underuse: Through our internal assessment process and beyond, THG also gains an understanding of an organization’s Culture and any particular social idiosyncrasies they may have as those idiosyncrasies relate to the Behavioral Economics that influence the organization (Culture and Behavioral Economics being the 2nd and 3rd pillars of Hyper-Philanthropy). Gaining an appreciation for the nuances of how an organization interacts with its donors is something that can only be achieved through cultural immersion, and THG prides itself on spending real time from the beginning of our engagement with you to obtain that educational grounding.
  3. Lay Some Rail: In donor engagements, help build their philanthropic vocabulary before going into the room to solicit a gift. Some donors will appreciate small talk, while others will want to get right down to business. Using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and meeting beforehand with your organizational leadership will allow you to be set up for success. 
  4. Over-communication: Through the years, THG has been on the receiving end of emails in all caps, emails that are little more than a run-on sentence, and even emails that are in different fonts and colors. What’s worse is when these emails are sent to multiple people, including volunteers. Suddenly, everyone is confused and frustrated. That’s why THG often ghost-writes template language that others can use when communicating with volunteers, donor prospects, etc. This introduces a regular rhythm to where communication is concerned, which is essential since communication is the fourth and final pillar of Hyper-Philanthropy.
  5. Under-communication: In the same way you can over communicate to people, you can also under communicate with them. For example, THG is currently in the process of conducting multiple feasibility studies. This requires extensive scheduling. The CEO may not have an opinion on every minor scheduling issue, but you want to make sure they’re aware of what’s going on. This is why we cc our entire core working team on weekly email updates. Regular communication is vital, especially when engaged in a campaign effort, and so the last thing you want is for your leadership to not be aware of some important development.

We took this approach recently in a major client presentation, and volunteers celebrated our straightforward, easy to follow language. When it comes to communicating, I often reflect back to my father, who was a marine officer who always said you can only tell someone three things at a time. We at THG often use that to guide us when we’re communicating with volunteers.

Accurate, concise information communicated in clear language that’s easy to understand is at the forefront of what we do and how we build Hyper-Philanthropic environments. Contact us today if you’re ready to find that clarity and become Hyper about Philanthropy.