Language is evolving:
Is your message getting lost in translation?

As we collectively adjust to the new ‘post-pandemic’ reality, changes are afoot in almost every area of society.

Does this even extend to the way we use language? There’s evidence to suggest so, and the implications are huge for fundraising.

The annual Institute of Fundraising Convention took place last week, with an online format for 2020. There were some fantastic talks including one from Dr Claire Routley, founder of Legacy Fundraising, on ‘The Psychology of Money’.

She outlined the huge impact charities have on supporters’ wellbeing as well as beneficiaries. Aside from making a straight donation, so many other things come with being a charity supporter that give people a sense of satisfaction. Whether it’s developing a relationship with a charity through excellent relationship fundraising, socialising with other supporters, or sharing a new experience with them (like say, training to run a marathon), facilitating connections between supporters is a great way to improve their experience and win their loyalty.

This is where the types of language we’re using in the post-pandemic world come into play. There is far more chat now of ‘togetherness’ and working towards the same goals, with much less ‘them and us’ thinking and more care for society’s vulnerable. You will have seen some of the endless brand campaigns focusing on these values over the last few months.

Presented in a creative way, togetherness can be a hugely galvanising concept for your fundraising campaigns. It can be used to create behavioural nudges which normalise the idea of giving – “joining the growing movement” is a much more attractive ask than simply “making a donation”.

Language that frames the need around “all of us” rather than beneficiaries alone is a powerful way to evoke shared values and strike a chord with your audience’s moral sense. This is particularly relevant to causes that involve vulnerable groups suffering disproportionately. The FrameWorks Institute suggests language like, “The right thing to do is ensure we all have what we need to be well”, playing on compassion rather than sympathy to remind supporters of shared human responsibility.

Social distancing can be the enemy of good writing. When putting together your next campaign, be aware of some of the trends Marketing Profs recently observed:

Writers (like the rest of us) are living in a state of isolation, and we’re bombarded with messages about the importance of maintaining that separation. Our thoughts, our behaviours, even our fashion choices are governed by the need for distance. Over time, that need is finding its way into our writing.

Several weeks into remote work totality, I started seeing drafts written entirely in the third person. Instead of “you” and “your,” “it” and “they” and other third-person verbiage littered the drafts. Although it began as a trickle, within a week’s time there wasn’t a “you” to be found in at least half the drafts I edited.

Good fundraising copy needs to be highly personal. “You”, “you” and even more “you”. Turn this state of isolation on its head when it comes to your copy – people give to charity so they can make an impact, not so that the charity can.

To quote another IOF Convention speaker, Chief Executive of Little Village Sophia Parker: “Language sets the boundaries of the debate.” It’s one of the first things you should consider when planning your next campaign – as language evolves, how will you harness the growing power of “togetherness”?

Andrew Derlien, Creative Copywriter

As ever, we’re on hand to help – reach out and find out how we can help you use language to good effect in your next fundraising project. You can reach us on 07917 113 157 or at hello@onagency.co.uk.

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