Lose the Lingo

I am a big baseball fan and have been for as long as I can remember.

But there is one part of baseball that annoys me to no end: Baseball lingo. There are Banjo Hitter (a player who lacks power), Bazooka (a strong throwing arm), Pickle (a rundown), and RISP (runners in scoring position), just to name a few.

That got me thinking: As development professionals, oops, I mean professional fundraisers, we have also created a vernacular all unto ourselves. Much like baseball, ours is a universal language that we understand, but few outside our profession grasp. Let’s have a little fun at our own expense.

Annual Fund. Planned Giving. Development. LYBUNT and SYBUNT.

Let’s start with Annual Fund. I believe that Annual Fund was a term created by a lazy Development Director – I mean Fundraising Director — who only wanted to send mail once a year. As we all know, a comprehensive annual giving program – I mean Direct Response program – is a 12-month effort.

Fundraising Director: Doesn’t that sound better then Director of Development? At least if you tell someone you are a Fundraising Director, they know what you do for a living. When I had the title of Director of Development, I would frequently receive direct mail solicitations for real estate ventures. I once asked a successful Major Gifts Officer if he thought his title made it more difficult for him to get appointments and secure gifts. His response to me was telling, and one I’ll never forget. He said his title opened doors and lines of communication for him that otherwise would have been closed. He believes that by having your title explicitly identify your role, it is upfront and easier to build relationships with high-end donors because they know what you do and what to expect. I couldn’t agree more.

Planned Giving: There’s another term I would like to see mothballed. Let me ask you this: Have you set up a will or bequest with an attorney on behalf of yourself or your family? When you set the appointment, did you say that you wanted to create a will, or did you say that you wanted to put your planned giving in place? Most donors don’t know what a planned gift is unless they are properly educated by a Planned Giving Officer. Maybe it would be better if Planned Giving Officers were just called Major Gift Officers – because truly, that’s what they are. 

LYBUNT and SYBUNT: I saved these two terms for last. They are my favorites. They are fun phrases to say: I’ve even been known to utter them aloud myself. But watch the company with whom you use these terms. Sure, it might be useful and even a little entertaining to throw those phrases around to your development – there I go again – I mean fundraising committee — to impress your leadership with your vocabulary. If this is the route you choose, look at their facial expressions. Wait a moment to see if they have enough courage to ask you what LYBUNT and SYBUNT mean, or if they just let you continue speaking with the hope that you’ll be done shortly. Wouldn’t it be much clearer to say a donor who made a gift last year but has yet to make a gift this year (LYBUNT) or a donor who made a gift in the past but not last year or this year (SYBUNT)?

Here’s your assignment: Ask your fellow fundraising professionals if they like their current title or if they believe it hinders them in their job. Ask your friends outside the scope of fundraising if they have ever included their favorite charities in their will or bequests or as beneficiaries on any of their financial assets or accounts. If they say “yes” – which I hope they do — then ask them if they know they had made a planned gift. Their answer may surprise you.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to lose the lingo, or did this blog just put you in a pickle?