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Philanthrospeak: Authentic communication in the charity sector

The philanthropic sector thrives on generosity. Sometimes, its language can be a barrier to connection. Phrases like ‘capacity building’ and ‘impactful interventions’. They pepper grant applications and fundraising materials. It leaves donors and programme participants confused. This is where ‘philanthrospeak’ creeps in – jargon that creates a distance between the doers and the supporters.

Why ditch the jargon?

Clear communication is the cornerstone of trust and engagement. When charities and foundations rely on jargon, they risk alienating potential donors. It also obscures the true impact of their work.

Imagine a potential donor reading a grant proposal. It’s filled with terms like ‘paradigm shift’ and ‘synergistic partnerships.’ Their eyes might glaze over, leaving them unsure of the project’s goals and hesitant to contribute.

Crafting a clear and compelling message

So, how can charities and foundations ditch the philanthrospeak and connect with their audience in a meaningful way?

Focus on people, not projects. Donors connect with stories of impact. Instead of dry statistics, showcase how your work is transforming lives. Use real names, quotes, and anecdotes. Illustrate the human stories behind your cause.

Clarity over complexity. Break down complex concepts into easy-to-understand language. Avoid jargon and acronyms. If a technical term is necessary, define it clearly. Readable can help you ditch jargon.

Active voice is your friend. Phrases like ‘are being provided’ are passive and impersonal. Shift to the active voice to make your writing more engaging. For example, instead of ‘capacity building workshops are being offered,’ say ‘we empower communities through capacity building workshops.’ Are you using the active voice in your content?

Specificity is key. For example, don’t just say ‘we help children.’ Explain how you help children – by providing educational resources, access to healthcare, or safe spaces for development.

Be honest and transparent. Don’t shy away from challenges. Acknowledge the complexities of your work and how you’re overcoming them. Transparency builds trust and fosters a sense of partnership with your donors. 
Speak the language of your audience

Tailor your language to your target audience. Young donors will respond better to concise, social media-friendly messaging. Major donors, on the other hand, likely want more detailed information and data-driven reports.

Once you understand the age range and education level of your audience, you can tailor your content accordingly. As well as scoring your content for readability, you can use our range of tone tools to make sure you’re hitting the mark. It doesn’t matter how impactful your language seems. If it’s not approachable in tone or understandable in reading level, it’s wasted on your audience. 

Beyond age, consider other demographics and interests when crafting your message. For example, donors passionate about environmental causes might appreciate technical details about your sustainability practices. On the other hand, animal welfare advocates might be more moved by stories of individual animals rescued or cared for by your organisation.

The way you present information should also adapt to the platform.  Social media posts should be brief and attention-grabbing. Use strong visuals and clear calls to action.  Website content can offer a deeper dive into your work. This includes impact reports, team bios, and volunteer opportunities. Tailoring your communication style to each platform ensures your message resonates.

Remember, effective communication is a two-way street.  Actively listen to your audience’s needs and concerns.  Use surveys, focus groups, or social media polls to understand their preferred communication methods and the information they value most.  Demonstrating that you care about their perspectives will build stronger relationships with your supporters. This ultimately leads to a more engaged and impactful mission.

The power of storytelling

Stories have the power to inspire and connect. Use storytelling to showcase the impact of your work. Share testimonials from programme participants, volunteers, and beneficiaries. Let your passion shine through. Create an emotional connection with your audience.

By ditching the jargon and embracing clear, compelling communication, charities and foundations can build stronger relationships with their donors. They can secure vital funding. Ultimately, they can make a greater impact on the causes they champion. Remember, philanthropy is about more than just money. It’s about human connection and positive change. Let your language reflect that.