In my last post on the language of fundraising, I suggested changes to the way we talk about asking for gifts. In doing the research for that post, I received several suggestions from colleagues about getting rid of common fundraising jargon.
Here are three phrases to reconsider.
1. Don’t Ask for Annual Fund Gifts
Do you use the phrase “Annual Fund” to describe your year-end fundraising appeal? Or perhaps you use it to describe any fundraising you do for unrestricted gifts that support the operating budget.
Both uses are ill-advised.
When you use the phrase “annual fund” with your donors, you imply that they will only be asked to make one gift each year—annually. And that’s just silly.
You should ask your donors for support whenever there’s something you think they might want to help with! They might be happy to give twice or three times or even more often every year.
Even worse, asking a donor to give to the “annual fund” is about as inspiring as mud. People don’t want to give to your annual fund. They want to help make someone’s life better or to improve the environment or do any number of concrete things that will have a concrete benefit in the world. The success of your annual fund may matter to you, but most of your donors don’t give a fig for it.
Change your language. Ask your donors to give multiple times a year. Give them ample opportunities to make a real difference in the world by inviting them to give to the things they care about.
2. Don’t Call Them Major Gifts Officers (MGOs)
Major gift programs have become a welcome and important part of most effective fundraising offices. But referring to staff members who work with large gift donors as Major Gift Officers (MGOs) doesn’t do justice to the real nature of their work.
Yes, they are responsible for bringing in major gifts, but their essential role is to build relationships with donors who have the capacity to make large gifts, find out how those donors would like to help, and then encourage them them to do just that.
Give your MGOs titles that describe what they really do. Call them Donor Service Officers or Relationships Managers or Donor Engagement Officers. That simple change in language will shift the emphasis from counting big gifts to building strong and enduring relationships with your funding partners.
3. Don’t Talk About Planned Giving
Planned Giving is another linguistic mishap. As my friend Tom Ahern emailed me recently, “The phrase planned giving muddies the waters, clouds the mind and inhibits success!”
Most gifts are planned, but that’s not the point. The vast majority (80-90 percent) of all so-called planned gifts are bequests.
Don’t ask your donors for planned gifts. Instead, ask them to put your organization in their wills. Most people of a certain age understand the concept of leaving money to an organization in their wills. There’s no need to talk about planned giving at all. It’s a code that makes a simple process sound complicated and intimidating.
With special thanks to Jeff Schreifles, Simone Joyaux, Tom Ahern, and Jeff Brooks for their suggestions and insights.
Andrea Kihlstedt is the author of four books on fundraising. She is president of Capital Campaign Masters, providing online resources to help organizations get ready for capital campaigns. Her book, Capital Campaigns, Strategies That Work, is now out in its fourth edition.