4 Reasons to Stop Using Nonprofit Jargon


We all love to hate it; nonprofit jargon! Every industry has its own secret language; the nonprofit sector is no exception. Whether you’re fluent or just learning, we all know about those words and phrases that only other nonprofit professionals can decipher. Although we love to laugh at it, here are 4 reasons why we should all try to eliminate nonprofit jargon from our vocabulary:

1. It makes communication unclear

Nonprofit jargon is not even standard across the sector, and it gets even more confusing outside of the the nonprofit world. We recommend always playing it safe by keeping your correspondence jargon-free. An unfamiliar word or phrase will be confusing at best, and totally alter your intended message at worst. Clear and concise messaging is always the most powerful way to communicate. Save the nonprofit jargon for office coffee breaks; keep it away from any external messaging!

2. creates distance between you and your supporters

Your goal is to make your supporters feel like a part of your nonprofit’s family. Using industry terminology and short hand phrases creates distance between you and your supporters. If a potential donor or board member feels like an outsider, it is less likely that they will involve themselves with your cause. Nonprofit jargon can even go as far as isolating those people your work is benefiting. Create an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome, and understands what you’re talking about!

3. It can waste time

The nonprofit sector is one with limited resources; time included! It may be tempting to use the same copy for internal and external communication. Although it will save time on the front end, this will almost always result in you having to back track and make clarifications for your supporters. Make your communication jargon-free the first time around so you have more time to dedicate to your nonprofit’s mission!

4. It’s just plain silly!

Above all else, nonprofit jargon is just plain silly! Here is a list of some words and phrases we all need to eliminate from our vocabulary:

  • Donor touches

  • Bandwidth

  • Thought leader

  • Flagship program

  • Shifting the paradigm

  • Unpack

  • Soft ask

  • Silo

  • Move the needle

  • Disruption

  • Donor pipeline

Vu Le of Nonprofit AF comes to the rescue by offering us some humorous alternatives to these overused and ineffective words and phrases. Why say “connect the dots” when you could say “plug in the toaster”? Or, why “reinvent the wheel” when you could “redevelop the theory of relativity?”

Comment below with your favorite nonprofit jargon!


If you have more questions about nonprofit strategy you can always reach out to the DipJar fundraising experts for help. It's what we love to do!