How often do you send something out, an email, letter, appeal or thank you letter full of terms that are vague, jargon only known by those in the “know”?

It happens too often, we’re all guilty of it, we all use terms and phrases we’re familiar and, comfortable with.

Often the terms and phrases use are too broad and often meaningless to the reader – your supporter.

How often have you sent something out using phrases like “we help at risk teens …” or “we support people in need …” These phrases mean a lot to you, but without a story to back up what you’re saying they can be absolutely meaningless to the reader.

Many terms you may use internally and they may be in your mission statement, but they should be limited in communications with your donors.

Kids –  Youth

If you work with kids – youth, children, say kids, most people identify their children as kids, they will remember what things were like when they were kids; so say kids.

Kids does sound warm, it has a recall; say kids and your supporters will likely relate better.

Having worked with organisations who assist children/youth, I’ve had the discussion about saying “Kids”; but it seems many feel that it’s ok to say children and youth but not kids because it’s seen as too informal and, perhaps demeaning.

But why can’t we just say kids?  Surely most of the people in your organisation and your supporters refer to their own children as kids – so why not say what people relate to when it comes to children and youth – Kids.

What sounds better, what gives you a warm feeling – kids or youth?

Being hit by a Bus

Ok, know one would actually say this, but, they would say “At risk”. It’s vague, walking down the street someone could be hit by a bus, there’s the possibility something bad could happen, that’s all “at risk” is saying. Be specific.

Tell a story to say how you work with people in certain situations so something won’t happen.

Something like “Our programmes help kids deal with … and help them grow and develop into … ”

“Since James came to us, his parents and teachers have seen …”

Turning lives around, making a difference

Well if you’re not making a difference why do you exist.

Yes, it’s important that supporters know you are making a difference, but you need to be saying more than that.

If you can show what you’re doing, what you’ve done – your supporters will relate more to the work you’re doing.

Again, tell stories, show what you’re doing … “in the last six months we’ve helped x families into new homes …”

Cognitive dissonance


If you use terms or phrases that cause confusion, you’ll have less impact from your communications. Stay on topic.

Say it as it is, avoid using any term, phrase or reference that causes confusion “we help kids see their potential”

Any other ideas you’d add?

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