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June 26, 2019

Words Potent for Good

Words Potent for Good


Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good…they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.

— Nathaniel Hawthorne, American author

Sharing the vision for your organization, project, or program with donors is one of the most important—and enjoyable—steps in donor engagement. As the recent rise in giving to donor-advised funds indicates, people are uncertain what to do with their money. In order to provide donors with a meaningful and impactful giving experience, describing the vision is a critical step—and it also offers development professionals, leaders, and others the opportunity to speak about something deeply important to them.


As you craft your compelling Opportunity Story for what you want to accomplish, are you choosing the best words to appeal to, inspire, and invite donors to join the cause? The table below shows common word choices and why these might not appeal to donors—as well as alternate choices that can be used to drive meaning and inspire giving.


Common Wording

Help us

In a Sentence

Help us to end hunger.

Why it Doesn’t Work

Implies the donor is not considered part of the team

Better Wording

Join us

Focus on language that emphasizes collaboration, cooperation, and unity. Donors want to be part of the team. The word “join” is more than a request—it is an invitation.

 

Common Wording

Gift

In a Sentence

Your gift can help end hunger.

Why it Doesn’t Work

Lacks accountability, which savvy major donors desire

Better Wording

Investment

There is a subconscious nod toward credibility when you use words like investment, which clearly implies that you intend to deliver a meaningful return.

 

Common Wording

Eventually

In a Sentence

Eventually, we can end hunger.

Why it Doesn’t Work

Emphasizes the length of time rather than the outcome

Better Wording

Ultimately

Major gift donors tend to be interested in outcomes. As successful people, donors know that big achievements take time—and they also know the value of focusing on the goal.

 

Common Wording

Hope

In a Sentence

We hope to end hunger.

Why it Doesn’t Work

Presents project outcomes as improbable

Better Wording

Plan

While hope and action are not mutually exclusive, it helps when sharing a vision to focus on what is possible: specific, planned actions a donor can see.

 

Common Wording

Society

In a Sentence

Our society can end hunger.

Why it Doesn’t Work

Provides too broad a category

Better Wording

Community

Emphasize inclusivity and a sense of personal ownership by using words like “community,” which also has a warmer connotation than “society.”

 

Common Wording

Give

In a Sentence

We give food to those in need.

Why it Doesn’t Work

Deemphasizes inherent caring

Better Wording

Provide

Donors tend to be moved by descriptions that emphasize the personal aspects of a philanthropic opportunity. Choose words that are nurturing, not transactional.

 

Common Wording

Improve

In a Sentence

We improve life for those in need.

Why it Doesn’t Work

Lacks specificity regarding effects

Better Wording

Enhance/enrich

The word “enhance” implies forward progress; “enrich” implies increase of wealth or experience. Both are strong words in a clear vision for support.

 

Finally, as you share the vision, remember that your personal enthusiasm is essential. When potential donors are passionate about a cause, they will enjoy sharing a mutual passion with you. Whatever words you use, speak with honesty and intentionality, and be encouraged that your words are being wielded for tremendous good.


Do you purposefully employ specific language in communicating with donors and potential donors? We invite you to share your powerful examples in the comments section below.

Other posts you might be interested in:


3 Reasons to Leverage the Power of Language

3 Reasons to Leverage the Power of Language

The Power of the Pause: Using Silence in Donor Conversations

The Power of the Pause: Using Silence in Donor Conversations


Watch Your Words



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