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Don’t Assume Your Nonprofit Supporters Know These 7 Terms

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It happens to the best of us: You’re talking with friends or family members, and you use a word or phrase that you don’t say outside of work—one that no one else in the room understands.

In the tech industry, that word might be something like “tech stack.” We might use an acronym like CRM without explaining what that stands for or that it’s sometimes used interchangeably with donor database or donor management software. It’s Constituent Relationship Management, by the way.

It’s confusing when you hear or see a word you don’t understand, and the same is true for your nonprofit supporters. They might pause to figure it out, which means they take more time to get to your donation page or wherever else they’re headed. They might even leave your website altogether or click out of your email.

We recommend sitting down with your team and looking at common words and phrases that appear in your marketing and fundraising materials. Would someone who doesn’t work at a nonprofit or in the industry know what that word means? If not, how can you better explain it? Can you replace it with another word? Once you have that list, update those materials as needed.

To get you started, here are seven terms that your supporters may not immediately know.

1. Donation page

Your donation page is a specific area on your website where a supporter can make a donation. In place of that, you might want to say “go here to make a donation” or “to make a donation, visit our donation page or fill out this donation form.”

2. Capital campaign

A capital campaign refers to a wide-scale effort that a nonprofit’s team embarks upon in order to invest a large amount of capital into a project or other area of need.

When you introduce your capital campaign, think about why your supporters need to know this term. What makes it different from a normal fundraising campaign?

If you want to highlight how important it is, do that. That’s as simple as saying something like this: “We’re hosting a capital campaign, which is our largest fundraising event in the history of our nonprofit. Our ambitious goal is to build a new center to better serve children in our area, and we’ll need a significant amount of funds to do so.”

3. Matching gift

A matching gift is a gift that increases the impact of one donation. Instead of using the term matching gift every time you talk about it, you can just mention what happens when your supporters make their donations.

This can be something like this: When you make a donation in the next 24 hours, it will automatically be doubled, which means you’ll make double the impact!”

You can also use the word match instead of double.

When you do use the term matching gift, you could say: “An anonymous donor offered to match donations up to $1,000. Help us take advantage of this matching gift and make a donation now!”

4. Donation acknowledgement

A donation acknowledgement is whatever you use to thank your supporters or donors. Usually, a donation acknowledgment takes the form of an automated email that includes their name, donation amount, and impact their donation will have on your mission. You could also send a donation acknowledgement letter or make a call that acknowledges the donation.

This is likely a term that doesn’t need to be included in any communications with your donors or on your website. If you’re thinking about using it, this is a good time to find another word instead. Think about ones like donor thank you email or donor thank you call.

5. Peer-to-peer fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is also sometimes called social fundraising. The term refers to the practice in which individuals organize their own fundraising campaigns and collect donations from friends, family, and colleagues.

If your team wants to provide your nonprofit’s supporters with information about peer-to-peer fundraising activities, you can explain what the campaign is each time you mention it. However, if this is a term you’re going to use often and you don’t want to do that every time, include a definition at the start of the campaign and in any resources you send to your fundraisers. You don’t have to include it on every post you share or with people who aren’t fundraising for the campaign.

6. Tribute gifts

A tribute gift is a donation made by an individual that recognizes someone else; it’s called a tribute gift because the gift is in tribute to them. These donations differ from typical donations because they’re usually made to honor someone who has passed away.

You may want to use the term memorial gift, gift in memory of, or gift in honor of instead of tribute gift if you think your donors would more easily understand one of those. No matter what term you use, this is definitely an example of when you want to define what the term means. Reassure the person who is making the gift that you recognize how significant it is and then make sure to thank the donor accordingly.

7. Recurring gift

Recurring gifts are those that donors contribute on a regular basis. If you want to choose another word, we recommend using one that corresponds to when they make the donation. Is it weekly? Is it monthly? Is it yearly? When offering donors the option to make a recurring gift, you can say something like make a monthly gift or give monthly.

You don’t want a donor to accidentally sign up to make a recurring gift when they mean to make a one-time donation so explain what this is on your donation page and in your appeals.

Wrapping up

The easier it is for your supporters to understand what you’re saying, the more likely they are to continue engaging with your nonprofit. Reevaluate your written materials and in-person appeal scripts and see where you can simplify your messaging.

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