Bad Language

Are we using too much bad language in Fundraising?

Well according to an article in the Sunday Business Post yesterday we are (well the wrong language).

They report , according the the Suddes Group, that by using words like “charity”, “non-profit” and “donor”,charities are using the wrong language and are defining themselves in negative terms.

So what should words should we be using? Apparently we are “for-impact” organisations that have “investors” rather than “donors”.

The article acknowledges that this language sounds more like management terminology….is that a bad thing though, aren’t we trying to get charities to take a more business like approach?

Is this the future? Does it work? What are do donors make of this language…do they care? Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the article reports that the DSPCA has taken on the Suddes Group philosophy and they suggest that they are on track to raise an additional €500,000 to €1 million this year. Add to that the fact that the Suddes Group, founded in 1983,  has since managed more than 300 campaigns and helped to raise more than $1 billion in funding.

How much of that is as a result of this new language is unclear? Maybe the Suddes Group are just in a position to help charities look at things from a different angle, strategize a bit better. I don’t know.

It’s an interesting concept though and certainly worth consideration and investigation and at the very worst, testing. We are trying to get our supporters to invest more in our organisations, so perhaps this language is the way forward?

Any thoughts?

read the full article here


6 thoughts on “Bad Language

  1. Hi Conor,
    I think there’s two distinct things worth discussing here. One is the use of language and the second is the proposition that charities should take a more ‘business-like’ approach. The first one is the easiest to deal with: No, they shouldn’t. Charities are not businesses and shouldn’t slavishly follow business practices. However, charities should definitely strive to be more professional. There is a big difference. There are plenty of businesses that are run badly, just as there are plenty of charities that are run very well. The key thing is to try to run your organisation with excellence.

    I think the language debate is interesting. People like Kay Sprinkel Grace are already advocating the use of ‘investor’ rather than ‘donor’ and ‘development’ rather than ‘fundraising’. And there is definitely something in positioning your organisation as one that meets needs rather than one that has needs.

    But, equally it’s important to talk to donors investors in language that they understand and I for one would passionately argue that anything that sounded like management consultancy jargon should be banished to the furthest circle of hell.

  2. Damian, the distinction you have made about charities not being businesses yet striving to be more professional is a good one and I would agree with you. I think at times we can get the two mixed up. Taking lessons and best practice is much more effective than working from a business model. Besides what business can operate on the ratios we operate on!

    I also agree with your point about organisations meeting needs, in a way it links a bit to my Primary Lessons post where I spoke about organisations needing to show that they can be effective in delivering change, its great to celebrate 50 years in operation, but not if your goal was to, for example eradicate a disease in 40!

  3. Besides what business can operate on the ratios we operate on!

    … very, very, very rich and successful ones!

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