Reuben Turner: Don't bamboozle your donors with charity jargon

'Engagement', 'appeals' and 'legacies' are not words you hear at the bus stop, so charities should not use them when communicating with supporters, writes the creative director of The Good Agency

The problem with jargon is that it escapes. In the control rooms of Nasa or the Large Hadron Collider, people need jargon – a common language that offers short cuts to complex ideas and processes. But jargon is a slippery beast that looks for every opportunity to get out under a door or through an air vent. And when it does, it does everything it can to remove the power and human connection from everyday language, driving a wedge between message and meaning.

This can happen in fundraising. We ask people to "fundraise for us" (not "raise money for us"). We ask them to "donate to" us, "make a donation to us" or even "donate to our appeal" – not just give, or make a gift. The language of our briefs can escape the control room of brand and strategy too. "Engagement", "inspiration", "passion" can all be found in brand models and manifestos, but are rarely heard at the bus stop. Neither should supporters have to deal with our internal structures. Next time you write to a supporter using your job title, read it out. Do they really want to hear from the Deputy Head of Supporter Engagement?

There are ample opportunities to bamboozle our supporters. With legacies, for example, we can soon move from a meaningful conversation about making your life's work live on into explaining the complexities of pecuniary and residuary gifts. Rather than inflict this language on people, why don't we just change it? And let's stop talking about "legacies" at all. To our supporters, it's their wills we're talking about.

So stop. Read the brief – your internal message. Read the copy – your external message. They should say exactly the same thing. Using none of the same words.

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