Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's in a name?

""What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

William Shakespeare, through Romeo and Juliet may have had a point.  But actually, a common knowledge is useful, especially in teaching.

I presented two sessions at AFP last week, to a mostly American audience and spoke about two things - what we in Australia call regular giving and a method of recruiting them, called face to face.  

By regular givers, I mean someone who has money debited automatically again and again in an agreed time period, usually monthly.

By face to face, I mean the act of speaking with someone, in person, and asking them for such an automatic donation.

These two names don't really work.

To many fundraisers, a regular giver is, understandably, someone who gives - um - regularly. This could include people who donate every Christmas.  So regular givers is not the right term. The Canadian approach is to call them monthly givers doesn't quite work either, since some are quarterly and some are fortnightly.

As for face to face, many fundraisers have, for decades, referred to the act of asking major donors for money, in person, as face to face. So this confuses people. Even if you define what you are talking about, people need to train their minds to the crossed meaning, which reduces the impact of the point of the teaching.

My proposed solution is to grab the best descriptions that exist and make them universal (for English speakers anyway - I don't know where to start with Chinese or Spanish equivalents).

I recommend for monthly donors / regular donors / automatic debitors we take on the American descriptor:  "Sustainer".  It makes sense, isn't a re-branding of the word and is not ambiguous. 

For face to face / street fundraising / chugging we should go with the old British descriptor: 
"Direct dialogue."  I won't even complain about the inevitable American misspelling (Dialog) which is more environmentally friendly anyway.  (Think about it).

Anyone want to help me with the re-branding campaign?


1 comment:

Roewen Wishart said...

I like the idea of adopting "direct dialogue" - unambiguous, and contains the positive message that there's some expectation of two-way communication with our donors.

"Sustainer" isn't immediately obvious. I think it's important to use a name which non-fundraisers within agencies and charities will easily understand. "Recurring" would be my suggestion. "Automatic" is intuitive, but contains the risky message that somehow these donors keep giving "automatically" without proper communication and donor care from fundraisers.

A similar interesting diversity of meaning is found in the term "planned giving" which is sometimes a euphemism for "bequests", and sometimes means "considered and structured giving, including both lifetime and bequest gifts"

Disaster Fundraising Guide download it here