As I copyedit text supplied by my nonprofit clients, I am constantly removing jargon. While phrases like “capacity building” and “fostering innovation” may mean something to your foundation funders, these terms usually have no meaning to the people you are serving with the grant the foundation gave you.

Never cut and paste your grant application language into a marketing brochure for a program and expect it to work as is. You are speaking to two different audiences who need to hear about the program in different words and ways. What is meaningful and memorable to a foundation project officer will not work for a busy, low-income single mom who needs your services. Write for your audience at all times.

I recently stumbled upon this list of foundation/nonprofit jargon terms. While the explanations about why each term is bad are rather long-winded, they will help you appreciate the problems with these phrases.

So how do you get the jargon out? After you find it, replace jargon with words that are more specific or include an example that illustrates the reality behind the term.

A Postscript: This post was picked up by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Published On: August 7, 2007|Categories: Writing Skills and Content|