After I wrote yesterday about a less-than-inspiring email appeal I had just received hours before the end of the fiscal year, my boyfriend, a copywriter by trade, pointed something out.
"You missed something. Last chance to donate before the end of the fiscal year. What does that even mean? I can't think of anything less inspiring than the end of the fiscal year."
He was right, of course. But it hadn't even crossed my mind. The fiscal year and the deadline it imposes on fundraisers and organizations is completely meaningless to donors. What's worse, it's just jargon.
Industry jargon is a fundraising killer, but all too often it creeps into our conversations and writing. Any field is loaded with industry jargon, and fundraising is no exception. Terms like "LYBUNT and SYBUNT" mean nothing outside of a development office. While you wouldn't use these in conversation with a donor (I hope), it's not unheard of that jargon might creep into your email. "Lapsed donors," "fiscal year," and others are just a few of the terms we throw around so loosely that mean nothing to donors. Over at Clarification, Claire Axelrod delves deeply into what jargon is, and why to avoid it. Fundraisers, take note.
If you find jargon creeping into your conversation or writing, it's time to step back. What do your donors see when they open an email from you? What do they hear when they answer the phone? Is it a frantic appeal from someone they don't know, asking them to help meet fundraising goals for the year? Or is it a sincere opportunity to invest in the organization you both believe in?